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Explained: What you need to know about failed election declarations from Paschal Donohoe and SF

Fine Gael and Sinn Féin have consistently sniped one another over their failure to properly declare donations and expenses.

JUST UNDER TWO weeks ago, it was first revealed that Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe had failed to declare a donation of services he received during the 2016 Election campaign.

This immediately sparked a controversy, with opposition parties criticising Donohoe for his failure to properly declare the donation.

However, in more recent days Sinn Féin have been impacted by revelations that they failed to declare invoices during both the 2016 and 2020 general elections.

All parties involved have now amended their declarations to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo).

So what exactly are the issues that have cropped up in the last 13 days?

Here’s a timeline with all the main details:

Postergate

paschal-donohoe-apology Paschal Donohoe addressing the media PA PA

  • On Saturday 14 January, it is reported by both the Irish Independent and Irish Examiner that Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe had been the subject of a Sipo complaint over a donation in 2016.
  • On  Sunday 15 January, Donohoe makes a public statement saying that a complaint had been made to Sipo after he did not declare a donation of services from businessman Michael Stone
  • These services, valued at approximately €1,057, were said to be given as a donation to the Fine Gael Dublin Central office.
  • In total, six workers were paid to put up posters around Donohoe’s constituency. A company van was also used.
  • Under Sipo rules, all donations to individual candidates are capped at €1,000.

Sinn Féin declaration

  • On Tuesday 17 January, it was revealed that Sinn Féin were forced to amend their own Sipo declarations from the 2020 General Election
  • The party made the amendment in 2022 after they failed to declare a poll – valued at €6,936 – that was carried out by UK-based pollster Survation.
  • Under Sipo rules, parties are required to declare all their election expenses in the weeks after polling day.

First Dáil statement

thumbnail_img_8171 Paschal Donohoe speaking in the Dáil

  • On Wednesday 18 January, Donohoe addressed the Dáil on the matter, telling TDs that he made a “clear mistake” in not amending his statement earlier
  • Alongside the donation of services, Donohoe said that he had sold Stone tickets to the Fine Gael superdraw as a donation to the party.
  • Tickets sold by Donohoe to Stone in 2020 amounted to €334, while tickets sold to Stone in 2021 amounted to €1,382.

Second Dáil statement

  • On Thursday 19 January, during a routine question and answer session on issues within his Department, Donohoe confirmed that he would be making a further statement to the Dáil on his election declarations.
  • Then on Tuesday 24 January, Donohoe appeared in the Dáil again for a formal question and answer session with opposition parties about his election declarations.
  • Ahead of this however, Stone released a statement saying that he had assisted Donohoe with his General Election campaign in 2020.
  • According to Stone, he paid six individuals €972 to hang posters around Donohoe’s constituency. He also provided the individuals with company vans, with a commercial value of €434.20.
  • Under Sipo rules, corporate donations from unregistered companies are unable to exceed €200.
  • This meant that the donation of vans was in breach of the rules, with Donohoe returning €234.20 to Stone.
  • Donohoe confirmed that he had since amended his Sipo declarations following the new information.

Election receipts

  • On Wednesday 25 January, the Irish Independent revealed that Sinn Féin had failed to declare the use of six venues in their 2016 election expenses declaration.
  • In total, the party did not declare €2,160.70 in receipts to venues for events they held during the 2016 campaign.
  • The party had also failed to pay €600 for the use of one venue, the Royal Irish Academy until earlier this week.
  • The Sipo returns for the party have since been amended.
  • Yesterday, RTÉ revealed that Sinn Féin had underdeclared their 2020 election expenses statement, due to sterling invoices being sent to Sipo.
  • These two invoices, valued at £4,800 and £800, means that Sinn Féin underdeclared their expenses by €945.
  • There were also reports from the Irish Times that Sinn Féin was the subject of a complaint to Sipo over spending on their electoral database, Abú.

Following these revelations, Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin spoke with Morning Ireland and insisted that there was a “world of difference” between Sinn Féin’s issues with Sipo and Donohoe’s.

“We have made a number of errors, and they have been brought to our attention in some instances by the media, and as soon as they have been brought to our attention we’ve rectified them immediately. That’s a world of a difference for Paschal,” Ó Broin said.

It seems likely that Donohoe will survive the election donation ordeal, but comes out of the incident bruised after almost two weeks of drip fed information.

What seems more likely however, is that issues surrounding election expenses for all political parties will continue to crop up in the weeks and months ahead.

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