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Both sides in the Eighth debate say they're making sure money isn't coming in from abroad

Campaign financing has come into focus in recent days.

Posters from both sides on a pole at Dublin's College Green.
Posters from both sides on a pole at Dublin's College Green.
Image: eahFarrell/RollingNews.ie

BOTH SIDES IN the Eighth Amendment referendum campaign have insisted that the funds they raise comply with regulations.

Rules dictate that campaign funds raised from individuals can only come from residents in Ireland or Irish citizens living abroad.

As campaign financing has come to the fore in recent days, both campaigns have made clear that they have confidence in the systems they have in place to ensure no rules are broken.

The Together for Yes campaign group is pushing for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment and launched an online fundraising drive on Tuesday which raised almost €300,000 over the course of the day.

The Save the 8th campaign, which is seeking No vote in the upcoming referendum, questioned the origin of some of theses donations.

While making a donation, donors were asked to confirm that they are either an Irish citizen or are resident in Ireland.

Asked at an event yesterday if the donations are checked further to ensure they comply with regulations, Together for Yes campaign co-director Ailbhe Smyth said that they are.

They’re all checked because obviously if we receive money from people who are not Irish citizens – because Irish citizens who live abroad can donate under the same conditions as Irish citizens here – that money is returned to them.

“This is not the first time many of us have done a referendum campaign where this question has arisen. It arose in the marriage equality referendum campaign and again we just simply kept lists as we’re doing this time, and in some few cases, money was returned but they’re very, very few cases,” Smyth added.

“I think most people actually read the instructions. Why? Because they’re parting with their money and they want to know where it’s going and for what purpose.”

campaign for yes 469_90542000 Ailbhe Smyth (centre) at a campaign event this week. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Protocols

TheJournal.ie asked the Together for Yes a number of other questions about ensuring that donations comply with Sipo rules in relation to residency or citizenship.

The questions related to both online donations and face-to-face fundraising, such as fundraisers with a collection bucket in a public place.

The group said that: “Together For Yes has robust protocols and procedures in place to ensure that everyone who has donated to the campaign is a resident in Ireland or an Irish citizen, in line with Sipo regulations.”

“We also have systems in place to ensure that we have the names and addresses of every person who donates over €100. If there is any evidence that someone is not complaint with Sipo, that money will be returned. ”

Save the 8th

At a campaign launch in Dublin two weeks ago, the anti-repeal Save the 8th group said that they had raised €400,000 and that “tens of thousands” of this came from buckets that was passed around at a pro-life rally.

Earlier this week, spokesperson John McGuirk said that over €400,000 has been raised since January.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, he said that he felt they would go “well beyond” that figure.

“Where we’re at at the moment is we are well over the €400,000, heading for the €500,000 and we’ll definitely break the €500,000 by end of the campaign and probably go beyond it I would think.”

On foreign donations, McGuirk said that the group had received some “small to medium donations” that they have determined to be from abroad that they have returned.

“You’re talking ballpark 100 bucks basically,” he said of the size of the individual donations.

“We have a policy that if we have an illegal donation that we have identified as an illegal donation, we return it within 48 hours,” he said.

vote no 022_90540970 Save the 8th says it has received a small number of foreign donations that they've returned. Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Asked, if the group takes any steps after an online donation has been made to determine if an individual is who they say they are, McGuirk says the group takes “all reasonable steps”.

We ask people to identify themselves and to provide their address and to provide their postcode and all the rest of it. We do not have the resources to track down people who haven’t provided a phone number to ring them to ask who are you and where are you from.

“That’s very difficult but we take what I would describe as all reasonable steps to prevent it.”

On face-to-face donations, such as those at a march or outside a church for example, Save the 8th like Together for Yes says names and addresses of donors are taken if they give over €100.

If somebody gives us €50 into a bucket we are not obliged by the law to declare it. If however they give us €100 or more than we would have to take their name and address and provide their details to Sipo.

Sipo rules dictate that anonymous donations must not exceed €100 in value. A donation is considered anonymous if the name and address of the donor is not known to the party who received the donation.

On the wider issue of campaign coffers, McGuirk acknowledged that Tuesday was “a huge fundraising day for the other side” but that Save the 8th will use that to motivate its own supporters.

“Just as Together for Yes were able to motivate supporters by saying ‘look at all the money the anti-choice have’, we already have people ringing up today saying, ‘God they raised an awful lot of money can we contribute a bit more?’ So we’ll be trying to harness that by writing you our supporters in the next day or two.”

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Rónán Duffy

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