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The latest Sipo report reveals that some independent TDs were keen to gauge the voter's mood.
The latest Sipo report reveals that some independent TDs were keen to gauge the voter's mood.
Image: Rollingnews

Amid talk of a snap general election last year, some Independent TDs were spending thousands on polling

Throughout 2018, speculation was rife that a snap general election could be on the cards.
Aug 9th 2019, 6:01 AM 18,051 13

THOUSANDS OF EUROS were spent on polling and public attitude sampling by Independent TDs during last year’s uncertain political climate. 

A recent Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) report on the State-funded Parliamentary Activities Allowance scheme for Independent Oireachtas members, shows some independent TDs were keen to gauge the voters mood.

The report also shows that a number of TDs spent significant funds on public relations. 

Interested in gauging the mood of public opinion, particular among his own local area in Dublin Bay North, Minister of State for Disabilities Finian McGrath spent €22,755 on constituency research and polling carried out by Red C.

In a recent interview with The Irish Independent, McGrath said that since being re-elected in 2016, some people have told him he has “sold out” by working with Fine Gael.

His Independent Alliance colleague, Minister of State for Training and Skills John Halligan spent €1,000 on polling and attitudes expenditure.

A further €7,910 was spent on “door-to-door attitude sampling” as well as social media polling, PR services and drafting of policy recommendations. 

Transport Minister Shane Ross also splashed out on polling, spending €10,639.50 on attitude sampling.

Looking at the opposition benches, Rural Independents TD Michael Harty also spent €2,522 on public attitude sampling in connection with parliamentary debate and initiatives, while the Clare TD paid over €23,500 to PR companies Caimin Jones PR and Jones Communications. 

Other independent TDs to pay for public relations in 2018 were Michael Fitzmaurice, who paid €15,469 on PR consultations. 

Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae spent €4,059 on PR to Southern Promotion Ltd, while former Communications Minister Denis Naughten spent €6,094.29 on PR and public consultation.

Why would politicians be spending money on polling last year? Oftentimes one of the reasons is to determine whether they will run in the next election, said DIT Politics Lecturer Kevin Cunningham. 

Around times of general election speculation, politicians can become very anxious about how popular they are, said Cunningham. 

As the conclusion of the confidence-and-supply deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil loomed last autumn, there was talk that an election would be called before the year end.

There was also speculation last summer that Fianna Fáil were on the look out for an issue to pull the government down on, with October’s budget or another winter crisis in health or housing perhaps providing the ammo. 

He added that it can cost around €30,000 to contest in an election, so politicians often want a bit of help in making their decision as to whether it would pay off. 

Cunningham said TDs do need to spend a significant amount to get a decent gauge on voter opinion.

The lower-level of spending, such as online and social media polling carried out by Halligan, indicates this could be on local issues, such as hospital closures. 

 

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Christina Finn

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