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Irexit party accepting donations despite not being registered with Standards in Public Office Commission

Two members of the party are running as independents in the upcoming elections.

Ireland Freedom Party leader Hermann Kelly
Ireland Freedom Party leader Hermann Kelly
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

THE IRISH FREEDOM Party has breached election laws by accepting donations for political purposes despite not being correctly registered to do so.

The party, which launched last year, announced it would run candidates in the upcoming European elections on a platform calling for Ireland to leave the European Union.

According to its website, it is accepting donations which it claims will be used to help the party “field candidates that put the Irish people’s needs first”.

Documents seen by TheJournal.ie also show that a donor contributed more than €100 to the party earlier this month.

However, the Irish Freedom Party is not listed on either the most recent Oireachtas party register or the Standards in Public Office Commission’s (SIPO) register of Third Parties.

Under the Electoral Act, parties or groups which accept donations for political purposes must register with the Oireachtas or SIPO if they wish to contest European elections.

According to SIPO guidelines, groups which promote candidates in elections and receive donations of over €100 need to register as a third party.

SIPO defines “political purposes” as those which:

promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the election of a candidate at a Dáil, Seanad, Presidential or European election or to solicit votes for or against a candidate or to present the policies or a particular policy of a candidate or the views of a candidate on any matter connected with the election or the comments of a candidate with regard to the policy or policies of a political party or a political group or of another candidate at the election or otherwise.

Third parties must also open a specific account with a financial institution for political donations.

They must provide SIPO with a statement from a financial institution showing the value of all donations they receive into this account, as well as all expenses used for political purposes over the course each year to 31 March.

If they incur any expenses to support non-party candidates, they must also appoint an election agent before registering.

Responding to queries from TheJournal.ie this week, a spokeswoman for SIPO said that the Irish Freedom Party had not been registered as a third party.

Promotional material

Groups which accept donations for political purposes may also register as political parties with the Clerk of Dáil Éireann if they wish to contest Dáil or European elections.

In order to be registered, a party must have at least one member in the Dáil or European Parliament, or 300 members over the age of 18.

However, the party does not feature on the register of parties, and an Oireachtas spokeswoman said that the Registrar of Political Parties would not comment on any specific application.

Despite not being registered, the Irish Freedom Party has held a number of political events in recent months and run a billboard advertising campaign.

At the launch of the party last September, the economist Ray Kinsella and former Irish ambassador to Canada Ray Bassett spoke alongside its president and founder Hermann Kelly.

A public conference held by the group in February 2018, before the party was launched, also saw UK Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage speak at the RDS in Dublin.

Billboard One of the Irish Freedom Party's billboards, which appeared in Dublin last month Source: Twitter

It is endorsing Kelly’s European election campaign in Dublin, as well as that of Dolores Cahill in Ireland South, despite both candidates standing as independents.

In a post on Twitter this week, its account called on the public to vote for Kelly, whom it described as “one of Ireland’s greatest living patriots”.

The post was accompanied by a hashtag associated with the upcoming elections on 24 May and a picture of the Derry native.

The party has also designed promotional material for the elections which features its logo alongside an image of Kelly and an apparent manifesto.

Hermann Kelly Ireland Freedom Party material promoting Hermann Kelly's campaign Source: Irish Freedom Party

In another post, the party said Cahill would be “a strong Irish voice in Brussels” and told Irish voters to “reject the Europhile establishment” by voting for her.

Stalled application

Responding to queries from TheJournal.ie, Kelly stated that he was running as an independent candidate and said his campaign was legitimate.

“I was there [SIPO's office in Dublin] on Tuesday, and I spoke to two guys,” he said.

“I’m running as an independent; my election campaign is above board. It’s not funded by the party.”

He also claims the party’s secretary contacted the Clerk of Dáil Éireann to register the Ireland Freedom Party as a political party a number of times this year, but says thet were unsuccessful in doing so.

“We put in an application at the start of this year, but they kept giving us the runaround,” he said.

“We asked them in February and gave them everything they asked for. We ticked a box they asked us to tick, then got back to us three weeks later and said ‘untick this box’,” he claimed

He confirmed that the party had provided the Clerk of the Dáil with the signatures of 300 people for its registration.

A spokeswoman for the Houses of the Oireachtas would not comment on the party’s application, but said an appeals process was in place should any applicant wish to appeal a decision taken by the Clerk.

“Irish taxpayers are paying €16m for registered parties – that’s before salaries for TDs, Senators and councillors - and we’re not costing them a thing,” Kelly said.

He added that issues relating to donations to the Irish Freedom Party were unrelated to his campaign, and were a matter for its Director of Finance.

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