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Fine Gael is charging charities for pretty much everything at its Ard Fheis

The party insists it makes no profit for providing exhibition space and stands for organisations at its gathering in Citywest.

Enda Kenny-branded mugs and plates which can be purchased at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis
Enda Kenny-branded mugs and plates which can be purchased at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

FINE GAEL IS charging lobby groups, NGOs and charities hundreds of euro to exhibit at its Ard Fheis this weekend.

The party’s two-day gathering is getting under way at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin this evening with thousands of delegates expecting to attend.

But outside organisations wishing to showcase their work to Fine Gael delegates will face charges for exhibit stands, name cards, lighting, electricity and a range of extras.

The party insists the charges are for the cost of building the exhibit structures and do not constitute a donation to the party. It insists it makes no profit and that it’s providing what is effectively a temporary exhibition space for the weekend.

However some charities have privately expressed unhappiness with the charges. One well-placed charity source said they had never seen charges like this before, adding that fees are normally waived for NGOs and similar bodies.

Fianna Fáil, which held its one-day Ard Fheis in Citywest last Saturday, said it waived fees for charities “working on the frontline”, while some organisations who exhibited were charged a nominal fee. It’s understood this was between €50 and €150.

By contrast, a 3×3 square metre stand at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis will cost over €153 plus 23% VAT. A larger 6×3 stand costs over €306 plus VAT. Everyone who exhibits will face these charges.

Exhibitors will also be charged €75 plus VAT for two spotlights and a socket and €15 plus VAT for a name card.

The party has also provided a list of extras that can be rented for the event including:

  • An upholstered chair for €19.50
  • A waste bin for €16.50
  • A coffee table for €45.50
  • A high stool for €30
  • A brochure holder costing €45
  • A 42 inch plasma screen TV on a stand for €320
  • Spotlight rails ranging in price from €65 up to €156

“There have been varying charges before but not of this size,” said the charity source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Normally they are waived for NGOs – unless they don’t like you!”

They said they had never before seen a price list for extras like tables and chairs.

In response to queries, a Fine Gael spokesperson said:

Fine Gael has to provide what is effectively a temporary exhibition centre to accommodate this aspect of its Ard Fheis. The party accrues no profit.

Asked for detail on its arrangements, Fianna Fáil said it charged a small number of exhibitors. They are believed to have faced fees in the region of between €50 and €150 depending on the size of their exhibit.

But the party said that charity groups “working on the frontline”, such as Alone, the Peter McVerry Trust, Simon, Pieta House and the Irish Hospice Foundation, were not charged. A party spokesperson said:

We believe it would be inappropriate to showcase their vital contribution to our society on the one hand and at the same time impact on their resources by asking them to make a financial contribution

Meanwhile, Labour has told organisations hoping to exhibit at its one-day conference in Westmeath on Saturday week that it is unable to accommodate them.

The party had sought details on the requirements of groups interested in exhibiting in early January. However it later told interested organisations that for “operational reasons” it is unable to offer exhibition space.

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Hugh O'Connell

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