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Government unveils details of plans for political funding reform

The new measures include details of gender quotas as well as new lower limits on the donations that parties can accept.

Phil Hogan announces details of the government's new political reform measures at Leinster House this afternoon.
Phil Hogan announces details of the government's new political reform measures at Leinster House this afternoon.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE GOVERNMENT HAS confirmed details of its plans to reform the funding and donations that political parties are allowed to accept – in what it has billed as the “most significant reform package in decades”.

Environment minister Phil Hogan announced the details this lunchtime – confirming reports that the government would cut State funding for political parties if they did not make efforts to balance their electoral candidates across both sexes.

State funding will be halved in the case of parties who do not ensure that at least 30 per cent of their general election candidates are female or male. This limit will increase to 40 per cent in seven years under the plans.

“This initiative is a groundbreaking political opportunity to incentivise a shift towards gender balance in Irish politics.  Women make up 50% of our population and they are significantly underrepresented in our political institutions,” Hogan said in a statement.

The minister added that the moves would “have a positive impact on women’s participation in local elections also”, although the gender balance in parties’ tickets for the 2014 local elections would appear not to be considered when deciding political funding.

The package of proposals also includes new lower limits on the donations that both political parties and election candidates can accept.

Under the new rules, parties will only be permitted to accept €2,500 in donations in any year from any single source, while individuals will only be allowed to accept €1,000 from any single source.

The rules also lower the thresholds over which donations must be declared to the Standards in Public Office Commission: parties will now be required to declare donations of €1,500 or more, while politicians must declare any donation over €600.

The limits being proposed by the government in terms of donations limits are identical to those which were put forward by Fianna Fáil when it tabled its own donations bill earlier this month – which was voted down by the government parties.

The disclosure limits proposed by Fianna Fáil were in fact lower than those being pushed by the government – with parties having to disclose donations over €1,000, and candidates €500, under the FF bill.

The proposals differ in that while Fianna Fáil’s plan would have required companies to hold a general meeting to authorise donations over €100, all of which would have to be declared to SIPO.

The government’s plans raise that limit to €200, though that limit is raised if the body has already itself been registered with SIPO.

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Gavan Reilly

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