Main parties and pro-treaty groups to spend €2.3m on Yes campaign

Mon, May 26, 2008, 01:00

CAMPAIGN SPENDING: Part One:Fianna Fáil and Irish Alliance for Europe are the main spenders, each paying out €600,000

THE BIG battalions of the Yes side come from the main political parties. Taoiseach and party leader Brian Cowen was unable to supply the figure for Fianna Fáil's referendum expenditure because, as he told a news conference, "it's not yet spent".

The actual amount is understood to be up to €600,000, while Fianna Fáil's representatives in the European Parliament will spend an additional €100,000.

Fianna Fáil has already printed 20,000 posters and a million leaflets that are being collected by TDs at party headquarters, and these will be distributed through the party's constituency organisation.

The money is coming from the national collection and local fundraising, according to a party spokesman.

The four Fianna Fáil MEPs, who belong to the UEN (Union for Europe of the Nations) group in the European Parliament, are spending an additional €100,000, which comes mainly from the annual information budget allocation made to such groups at Strasbourg.

A Fine Gael spokesman said the party was spending "almost €500,000" on its Lisbon campaign.

This would come from "the usual sources" - fundraising and the party coffers - and information funds were available to the party's MEPs through their membership of the European People's Party-European Democrats group in the European Parliament.

In the second Nice referendum, Fine Gael MEPs spent an estimated €80,000 over and above what the party disbursed from its own funds.

Asked how much the MEPs would be spending this time, the spokesman explained: "At the moment it's not possible to quantify this as not all aspects of the campaign have been decided upon, but all support is in full compliance with the rules that govern such funds."

Young Fine Gael has spent €4,500 on its campaign, including public meetings, posters, flyers and T-shirts.

The main expense items for Fine Gael include some half-a-million items of literature explaining the treaty; 20,000 posters displayed on poles throughout the State; other forms of advertising, including online advertising and a new treaty-oriented website.

Labour's Joe Costello said at his party's Lisbon launch that "our budget for the campaign is a very substantial €200,000 and I can assure you we expect to spend all of it".

Activities include a billboard campaign at 60 different locations in the main urban areas as well as advertising at bus shelters, railway stations and on lamp posts.

Some of the cost will be met from party funds; TDs are donating €1,000 each; and a special Lisbon fundraising committee has also been set up to seek similar donations from

other individuals, including members of the business community.

Labour's MEP Proinsias De Rossa has separately been allocated €50,000 ("initially at least") by the Party of European Socialists group in the European Parliament for postering and other Lisbon-related activities.

This comes from the group's information budget although, as the Dublin MEP says, it is "not neutral information".

The Green Party as such is not taking part in the Lisbon campaign, although individual members, including Ministers, will be involved.

"We produced an information booklet and sent it out before our meeting in January. The cost of the booklet and the meeting is less than €10,000. Since then, the party has incurred no referendum expenditure," a party spokesman said.

A number of Green MEPs held an event in Galway in March, but they covered the expenditure for this from their own funds.

Among campaign groups, the Irish Alliance for Europe, chaired by former finance minister Ruairi Quinn, is fundraising and campaigning at the same time and has set a target figure "close to €600,000".

Mr Quinn said: "We're about 50 per cent on target in terms of pledges and money collected." Sources of funding included "individuals, corporate entities and organisations" and he added: "There's a lot of goodwill out there."

"In addition to a national road show and calendar of public events, a combination of billboards, campaign posters and information leaflets will be used to get people informed and to exercise their democratic right to vote," an Alliance spokeswoman added.

The Irish Business and Employers' Confederation (Ibec) has allocated a budget of €250,000.

"Funding for the Ibec Lisbon Treaty campaign is coming from Ibec reserves, following a decision to this effect by the Ibec National Council," a spokesman for the employers' group said.

"The main spend by Ibec in the campaign is on the nationwide poster campaign [10,000 lamp-post posters], we have also launched a dedicated website and printed material for distribution on the treaty," the spokesman added.

Tomorrow: Spending on the No side.

Funding: the rules

An individual or group in receipt of a contribution in excess of €126.97 in value in a particular calendar year, for the purposes of campaigning on the Lisbon Treaty referendum, is required to register with the Standards in Public Office Commission as a third party.

They may not accept a donation or donations from the same person exceeding an aggregate value of €6,348.69 in any one year.

By March 31st, 2009, these individuals or groups are required to supply a bank statement to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

They will not be required to disclose who contributed and the bank statement will not be made public.

Similarly, a registered political party may not accept a donation from the same person in the same calendar year that exceeds €6,348.69 in value.