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Sinéad Gibney during the count at the RDS Alamy
quotas

'I wouldn't have been able to run if I had no husband': Sinéad Gibney rues cost of MEP campaign

Gibney fell just 440 votes short of the threshold for reimbursement.

SINÉAD GIBNEY HAS said that if she was still a lone parent, running for a seat in Europe would’ve been out of reach.

The Social Democrats candidate was eliminated on the fifteenth count in the Dublin constituency, after quitting her full-time job with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to pursue an MEP role.

Gibney sold her car in order to put €20,000 of her own money into the campaign. The rest of the €60,000 budget was made up of personal savings, party investment and donations from supporters.

Neither she nor the party will get this money back, as Gibney fell just 440 votes short of the threshold for reimbursement. 

She told The Journal that, while she knew it was a risk, she’d felt confident she’d reach the threshold because of how she fared in the polls, and the performance of fellow Social Democrat Gary Gannon’s Europe campaign five years ago.

“I knew a seat was going to be a difficult ask, but I believed we had a shot, and absolutely I thought I would get the expenses back,” she said.

Until three months ago, Gibney worked full-time as chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

She was in her fourth year of the five-year term but she decided to resign rather than take a sabbatical, as the role is apolitical and she would be closely aligned with a political party after her Europe campaign, win or lose.

The quota in the Dublin constituency was 75,345 votes, and in order to claim reimbursement, a candidate must have either won a seat or achieved at least one quarter of the quota. Gibney got 18,396, which is just below the amount required.

While she was surprised she didn’t accrue enough votes to get her money back, she says she is privileged to have been able to gamble on getting a seat.

“I also have a husband. We’re only married two years and, believe me, I was very very appreciative of what that meant.”

I’ve been a lone parent my whole life, and if I didn’t have a husband, I wouldn’t have been able to do this because I wouldn’t have had that cushion.

Gibney’s gaze has now shifted to a Dáil seat – a campaign which will cost both her and the party thousands more.

However, she’ll be up against parties with a much larger financial backing, demonstrating the disparity that still exists in the Irish political system.

“I really do think politics unfortunately still is out of bounds for a lot of people.

“We talk about America, we talk about the money that goes behind candidates … the reality is, to a lesser degree, it plays out here too,” she said.

“When parties can pay for 8,000 posters for a candidate, for example … posters work, reach works, and unfortunately it means the status quo remains.

I did print my posters in such a way that I could chop off the ‘for Europe’ at the bottom and potentially reuse them.

Since supporters have heard of her financial losses, Gibney says she’s received donations in the hundreds of euros, which she did not ask for.

She said support from the Social Democrats throughout the campaign and up until her elimination was unwavering.

“I think they will see it as an investment in a candidate they believe in,” she said.

“Any suggestion that they weren’t behind me both in terms of moral support, but also in terms of party backing, is just wrong.”

Between now and a general election, Gibney plans to find another job that can pay her rent.

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