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Damien Storan

Political parties and independents received €13.4 million in State funding last year

The funding is non-electoral and is an administrative allowance.

NINE POLITICAL PARTIES and and multiple independent TDs received exchequer funding totalling just over €13.4 million last year.

The qualified parties were Aontú, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Green Party, Independents 4 Change, Labour Party, People Before Profit/Solidarity, Sinn Féin and Social Democrats. 

The Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) released its Exchequer Funding of Political Parties in 2021 report today which showed the funding parties received under  the Electoral Act 1997 based on their percentage of the vote in the last Dáil election.

Sipo also released a second report, the Parliamentary Activities Allowance 2021, which details funding that is provided to party leaders and independent TDs, which is funding based on the number of TDs elected to the Oireachtas following a general election.

In total, €5.8 million was provided to political parties under the Electoral Act 1997, while €7.6 million was granted to parties under the Parliamentary Activity Allowance.

This leads to a total of €13.4 million in State funding being provided to both political parties and individual TDs.

Electoral Act funding

The funding under the Electoral Act can be spent on the general administration of the party, research, education and training, policy formulation and encouraging participation of young people and women.

It cannot be used for election or referendum expenses and officers from each of the seven parties who submitted returns for 2021 stated that the funding was not used for such purposes.

Of the €5.8 million that was provided to political parties, €1.2 was left unspent.

polfund Funding for political parties in 2021 SIPO SIPO

As the largest party in the last election, Fianna Fáil received €1,427,140 in 2021, of which it spent €943,986 in that year.

Sinn Féin received €1,565,044, spending €1,091,040.

Fine Gael was given €1,350,251 and spent €1,106,975.

Parties are required to include their use of this money, with all parties spending most of their funding on administration.

Sinn Féin was the biggest spender of any party in three of the six categories including the youth participation and participation by women categories, spending €43,777 and €62,993 respectively.

2polspend Expenditure of exchequer funding for 2021 SIPO SIPO

Fine Gael spent more than any other party in administration (€929,404), Fianna Fáil was the top spender in policy formation (€30,000) and Sinn Féin in coordination of members (€347,229) and research (€82,727).

The report also noted that Renua failed to submit the necessary documents by the statutory deadline for the party’s return for 2020, and still hasn’t done so.

Further action cannot be taken against Renua for failure to comply with its obligations or for late compliance because it is not longer a qualified party, which the commission refers to as an “unacceptable” situation.

“Where a party has received public funds and fails to account for the expenditure of those funds as required by the Act, the Act should provide for sanction. The Commission recommends that failure to provide statutory returns of expenditure of public funds should be an offence, subject to prosecution.”

The report included the closing balances of funding from 2020 and last year, which show that of all parties Sinn Féin has retained the most amount of exchequer funding with €1,773,589 still unspent.

This was followed by Fianna Fáil which had €783,606 remaining.

In contrast the Green Party had only €6,311 unspent out of the €545,150 it received in 2021 and had no closing balance at all for the previous year.

Labour was given €383,435 and spent €527,367 – using exchequer funding from 2020 that was unspent.

People Before Profit received €281,248 and spent €237,878 and Social Democrats collecting €297,121, with expenses of €214,559.

Party Allowance Funding

This funding, which totaled €7.6 million last year, is paid out to parties and independents for expenses that arise from parliamentary activities, including for training, consultancy fees and salaries of party workers.

Political parties are also permitted to carry over any remaining funding at the end of the year, with approximately €400,000 provided in 2021 being left unspent.

SIPO_Party Allowances Parliamentary Activity Allowances for 2021 SIPO SIPO

In 2021, the biggest spender was Fianna Fáil, who spent €1,620,392 with most of that going towards administration fees.

Sinn Féin was the second biggest spender, forking out €1,386,355 across 2021, while still leaving a significant balance of funds at the end of the year, with €1,492,870 leftover for 2022.

Fine Gael was the third highest, spending €1,363,743 in 2021.

Alongside political parties, 19 independent TDs received €705,461 in parliamentary assistance funding, each receiving €37,130.

SIPO_IndependentTDs Funding received by Independent TDs SIPO SIPO

Additional reporting by Tadgh McNally

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