Orthodox and creative fundraising help boost No war chest to €1.25m

Tue, May 27, 2008, 01:00

CAMPAIGN FUNDING II:The anti-Lisbon groups have less money than their opponents but they are highly-motivated

TRADITIONALLY THE No side in EU referendums has enjoyed significantly less funding than its opponents. However, the No groups tend to have a high number of committed activists, many with wide-ranging political agendas of the left or the right. Funding is very important but it is not a guarantee of success, as the shock defeat of the Nice Treaty in the first vote in 2001 showed.

The total No spend will be in the region of €1.25 million or just more than half the estimated expenditure on the other side.

Easily the most original form of fundraising in the referendum is the method used by the People's Movement, whose leading light is Green Party activist Patricia McKenna. The Greens have no official position, but individual members can campaign for or against the treaty as they wish.

The People's Movement derives most of the funding for its No campaign from sales of the Robert Ballagh poster, Mise Éire, which shows a human head draped and, in effect, blinded by the flag of the EU. Secretary of the organisation Frank Keoghan says the poster or print is being sold at €300 framed and €250 unframed. "We also got a few bob from pub quizzes," he says. "We expect to spend something less than €20,000."

Another anti-Lisbon organisation with a penchant for eye-catching if controversial publicity is Cóir, with an address at Capel Street, Dublin. Cóir is responsible for the "Three Monkeys" poster which declares: "The new EU won't see you, won't hear you, won't speak for you: Vote No."

"We reckon our campaign will cost more than €100,000," says spokesman Richard Greene. "We have received modest donations from many ordinary supporters who support our concerns and objectives - a bit like the Obama campaign in the USA - which has allowed us to put up 5,500 posters and distribute more than 500,000 leaflets." It also has a website.

The spotlight is on Sinn Féin as the main political party opposing the treaty. A spokeswoman says: "We're spending €100,000 on leaflets, posters and canvass cards, plus some advertising in local papers and some bus and Dart station advertising in Dublin.

The money is coming from "the usual party funds" except for about €20,000 allocated to Mary Lou McDonald MEP from the information budget of Sinn Féin's affiliate group, the European United Left-Nordic Green Left, in the European Parliament.

Independent MEP for Ireland South, Kathy Sinnott, is getting funding from the Independence/ Democracy group, which also includes the UK Independence Party. "This is the only funding available to me. These are being spent as needed, so there is no amount as yet. The full sum will be made available later when known," she says.

Apart from Sinn Féin, the highest profile on the No side belongs to businessman Declan Ganley's think-tank Libertas, whose spokesman John McGuirk says: "To date, we have spent €300,000, or in that region. This has been primarily spent on billboard and other advertising. We will be running an extensive advertising campaign between now and polling day, and the majority . . . will be allocated to local newspaper and billboard advertising.

"We will also be leafleting extensively, and will do a limited number of lamp-post posters. It's difficult to put an exact figure on it, but I would imagine that somewhere in the region of €1 million between now and polling day would not be far off. As regards the source, our funds have been privately raised through donations. These will be declared at the appropriate time."

The organisation's executive director Naoise Nunn confirmed to this newspaper last week that both himself and campaign director David Cochrane are employees of Rivada, a US company that sells communications technology to the US military and National Guard and whose chairman and chief executive is Mr Ganley.

Asked what he did for Rivada, Nunn said he mainly did work for Libertas. He said Mr Cochrane began working for Rivada last year, and was engaged mainly in developing the Libertas website until December 2007, when he became campaign director for the Libertas referendum campaign. However, McGuirk said Rivada staff who "provided assistance" to Libertas during 2007 did so in their "free time" while fulfilling their duties to Rivada.

If Libertas is the biggest spender on the No side, modesty is the keynote of www.VoteNo.ie, whose editors, Kieran Allen and Sinead Kennedy, are both members of the Socialist Workers' Party. Allen says: "The website was set up through voluntary labour from socialists. I think it costs around €120 to host. It is maintained by myself and a few other people - in our spare time." The SWP itself will, according to Allen, "spend a few hundred euro on distributing thousands of leaflets which we print ourselves".

The best-known Irish critic of the EU for several decades now is Anthony Coughlan, whose National Platform casts an astringent eye on Brussels and its doings. Coughlan says its work is "entirely voluntary and unpaid".

"I would estimate that the cost of the current campaign from last January until June 12th next [referendum day] is unlikely to be more than €5,000," he says. "I sent out an appeal the other day . . . to some personal friends and supporters to help cover that estimated sum and, with luck, hope to get €4,000 or €5,000 back in donations. Otherwise the balance of our costs will be met from our own pockets."

Carol Fox of the Campaign Against the EU Constitution, whose affiliates include a variety of left-wing and republican organisations, says: "We've spent about €10,000 so far and are hoping to fundraise to get us through the rest of the campaign."

Other groups campaigning against the treaty include the People Before Profit Alliance, which estimates it is spending "around €10,000" and has used it to print about 200,000 leaflets and 10,000 posters. Spokesman Richard Boyd Barrett says: "Almost all of this has come from fundraising by the local branches of PBP."

Peace and Neutrality Alliance (Pana) chairman Roger Cole says its expenditure will be "about €5,000, including donation of office space from [ trade union] Unite". The funds are coming mainly as donations from Pana's affiliated organisations.

Dónal O'Sullivan-Latchford, who chairs the small anti-Lisbon group, EUReform, says it has raised less than €2,000 and this has all come from "our supporters, here, in Ireland".

Action from Ireland (Afri) is a human rights and anti-war group based in Dublin, which has published a booklet by Dr Andy Storey entitled, The Lisbon Treaty, the European Military Project, and Europe's Role in the World: Implications for Irish Voters. Administrator Marie-Laure Picoury says this will take up the bulk of Afri's Lisbon spend of "under €1,000" and she adds: "This is entirely raised from direct donations from the public."

The Immigration Control Platform is also campaigning for a No vote and spokeswoman Áine Ní Chonaill says: "We decided against posters in the end as the small number we could afford would be swamped. We have produced a leaflet, almost exactly as our submission to the Forum on Europe, and we will be distributing these via members. It will, therefore, be only a few hundred euro. This will come from our funds, which are membership subscriptions and contributions."

The Workers' Party says branches or constituency organisations will meet their own costs and any expenditure above that will probably be funded from a special national draw. Campaign director Pádraig Mannion says the party's Lisbon budget "will mostly consist in the expenditure of shoe leather".