Euro elections must not be decided by ‘personal wealth’, says FG candidate

Comments by Harris seen as criticism of party running mate Clune

Deirdre Clune: Yesterday’s “Irish Examiner” front page featured a large advert for Ms Clune’s campaign. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Deirdre Clune: Yesterday’s “Irish Examiner” front page featured a large advert for Ms Clune’s campaign. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 01:00


Fine Gael European Parliament candidate Simon Harris has called for stricter spending limits in campaigns to prevent candidates “buying” elections with “personal wealth”.

His comments are being seen as a criticism of one of his party running mates.

Mr Harris’s call comes as fellow Fine Gael candidate in Ireland South, Senator Deirdre Clune, has mounted a substantial advertising campaign, including prominent media adverts.

Yesterday’s Irish Examiner front page featured a large advert for Ms Clune’s campaign, including a photograph of Ms Clune with her father, former tánaiste Peter Barry, of the Cork business family that runs Barry’s Tea.

There have also been newspaper adverts featuring Ms Clune pictured with Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and Fine Gael MEP Máiread McGuinness. Ms Clune did not return calls last night.

While not mentioning Ms Clune by name, Mr Harris, who is a Wicklow deputy, said, “European elections should not be reduced to a contest based on access to personal wealth.”

As well as Mr Harris and Ms Clune, Fine Gael is also running sitting MEP and former GAA president Seán Kelly in the four seat constituency.

Mr Kelly is seen as the most likely party candidate to be elected, leaving Wicklow-based Mr Harris and Cork-based Ms Clune fighting for a second Fine Gael seat, if there is one.

The pair have already fought over territory, with the Leinster counties supposed to be left to Mr Harris.

The spending limit for the election period, which started on April 3rd and lasts until polling day, is €230,000.

The Wicklow TD has called for an independent electoral commission “which oversees spending, organises debates and prevents the ‘buying of elections’ – particularly European elections”.

While he said this was to make sure Independent and other smaller candidates get a fair chance, Mr Harris added: “It is too easy for a candidate with huge resources to spend massive amounts of money simply promoting a name and an image without having to engage on the important European issues.

“Irish voters deserve a level playing field. Despite the reforms already introduced for European elections, such as the cap on spending, it is still too easy for someone with access to vast financial means to ‘buy’ an election.”