Sipo says Libertas failed to co-operate with Lisbon report
Anti-Lisbon organisation Libertas failed to provide adequate information to the Standards in Public Office commission on its activities during last year’s referendum, a report found today.
The Sipo report on “third parties” who participated in the Lisbon treaty referendum campaign said that “despite a number of written and telephone reminders to Libertas, it has failed to provide the required information”.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said today he was "disappointed and concerned" at the failure of Libertas to fully cooperate with the commission.
Sipo said a number of changes should be made to legislation including a requirement of third party groups to disclose details of expenditure on referendum campaigns. “Similarly, information should be made available on the sources of funding available to both third parties and political parties,” the report said.
It also said failure to co-operate with enquiries made by the Commission should constitute an offence.
A third party is defined as a person, other than a registered political party or a candidate at an election, which accepts a donation exceeding €126.97.
When compiling the report, Sipo wrote to four registered third parties regarding the provision of loans. These were: Libertas, CÓIR, Campaign Against EU Constitution and Irish Alliance for Europe. All groups except Libertas said they had not received any loans to finance their referendum campaigns. Libertas had already informed the Commission of a loan provided by its founder Declan Ganley.
In September Mr Ganley disclosed that he gave a personal loan of €200,000 to help fund the Libertas campaign against the Lisbon treaty.
The Standards Commission wrote to Libertas on June 19th, 2008 seeking details of any loans provided to it from a financial institution or other person for the purposes of funding its referendum campaign.
Mr Ganley replied August 13th confirming that Libertas had received a personal loan from him "in respect of which a detailed legal agreement and repayment plan in accordance with commercial lending norms" had been agreed. Sipo wrote again to Mr Ganley on August 22nd and requested a copy of the legal agreement and repayment plan for the loan. “In spite of subsequent correspondence with Mr Ganley and his legal representatives, the information requested by the Standards Commission has not been provided by Libertas at the time of writing this report,” the report said.
Sipo said it had engaged in further correspondence with Libertas on the suggestion that employees of Mr Ganley’s Rivada Networks Ltd may have been paid by that company while working for Libertas on its referendum campaign. Libertas confirmed that Rivada employees "who worked on the Libertas project did so in their spare time and on a voluntary basis”, the report found but the group had failed to provide further details sought in a letter writing by Sipo last September.
The commission had inquired into the distribution of a book supplied by Foundation for European Democracy but Libertas had not provided any further comments at the time of writing the report.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said he was "disappointed and concerned" at the failure of Libertas to fully co-operate with the Commission.
"The Government is fully committed, as the Taoiseach has already outlined, to introduce legislation which will establish an independent electoral commission. This will ensure greater control and transparency in terms of donations and spending at elections and referendums," Mr Martin said.
Minister of State for European Affairs Dick Roche said the report demonstrated that Libertas was not willing to operate under the Law, according to Minister for Europe, Dick Roche.
"It raises real issues regarding the extent of foreign interference channelled via Libertas into the referendum campaign. The report demonstrates the need for an immediate strengthening of the law."
“It confirms questions raised by me and others about the role of US defence contractor Rivada Networks Ltd and its Irish office. It contains and confirms that there was serious external interference in Ireland's referendum campaign from Mr Ganley's euro sceptic contacts via the Libertas campaign.”