Yes and No groups spent at least €3.5 million on treaty campaigns

Tue, Oct 6, 2009, 01:00

ANALYSIS:Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour spent a total of about €1 million campaigning for a Yes vote in the referendum, writes MARY MINIHAN

AT LEAST €3.5 million was spent by the main groups campaigning for and against the Lisbon Treaty, while the Referendum Commission spent under €4 million.

Political parties said they spent about €1.47 million, including contributions from European Parliament groups, while various civil society groups and corporations revealed spending of about €2 million.

The Yes side’s biggest spenders were Ireland for Europe, Fianna Fáil and Ryanair, who were all about the €500,000 mark, while anti-treaty group Cóir was far ahead of other No campaigners with €250,000.

The Referendum Commission had a budget of €4.2 million but spent “well under €4 million”, according to a spokesman. The commission’s role was to explain the referendum proposals, promote public awareness of the referendum and encourage the electorate to vote.

The Department of Foreign Affairs spent €700,000, a spokesman said, with the bulk of that figure going towards the cost of informative leaflets, postcards and a website.

The European Commission spent €150,000 on a guide to the Lisbon Treaty distributed by Irish Sunday newspapers. This spending was in addition to signing a €1.6 million public relations contract to provide information about the European Union. A spokeswoman said this work would continue until next May.

On the Yes side, Fianna Fáil’s spend was expected to be €500,000, according to a party spokesman. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe grouping in the European Parliament provided €125,000 of that amount.

A Fine Gael spokesman said his “best estimate” of the party’s campaign spend was €300,000, with between €80,000 and €90,000 of that coming from its partners in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party.

The Labour Party spent €200,000. Half of that amount came from party coffers and the other €100,000 came from colleagues in the Party of European Socialists (PES) grouping in the European Parliament, according to campaign director Joe Costello.

The Green Party ended up spending about €13,000, having originally said its spending would be limited to €5,000.

A spokesman said the party had initially not realised it could obtain additional funding from Brussels. The United Kingdom Independence Party’s (UKIP) entrance into the campaign “redoubled our resolve”, he said.

Extra funds were then sought from the Green group in the European Parliament, and €8,000 was received.

Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary said last week that the airline spent just under €500,000 on the campaign.

Intel’s spending was “in and around” €300,000, a spokesman said.

He said the decision of Intel Ireland’s general manager, Jim O’Hara, to intervene in the debate, combined with former Intel boss Craig Barrett’s widely-reported appearance at the Global Economic Forum at Farmleigh, Dublin gave the company’s campaign resonance and “dimensions beyond pure spend”.

The employers’ group Ibec had a budget of €150,000.

Among the civil society groups, Ireland for Europe, led by former European Parliament president Pat Cox and Prof Brigid Laffan, raised and spent €500,000, a spokeswoman said.

A spokesman for We Belong said the organisation cast its net far and wide to raise €250,000 through corporate donations and contributions through the PayPal system on its website.

Generation Yes spent €30,000 through donations and fundraising events such as table quizzes, a spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, on the No side, Cóir spokesman Brian Hickey estimated the organisation spent about €250,000. Hickey said the group had quite an extensive mailing list of donors.

“I was in the office one afternoon there last week and three people in the couple of hours that I was there just came in off the street to give cash donations,” he added.

Sinn Féin spent about €100,000, of which €15,000 came from the European United Left – Nordic Green Left (known as GUE/NGL) grouping in the European Parliament, a spokesman said.

A spokesman for Socialist MEP for Dublin Joe Higgins said “every penny” of the €55,000-€60,000 he obtained from GUE/NGL was spent.

A four-page glossy leaflet was delivered professionally to homes in Dublin and Cork, while volunteers distributed the document elsewhere, the spokesman said.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who said he was representing the Europe of Freedom and Democracy grouping in the European Parliament, said “we didn’t spend more than €190,000 in total”. This included the printing and distribution of urban and rural versions of a controversial leaflet that was criticised by the Labour Court.

Farage said the leaflet was distributed by An Post. “If you want to do a deal with your national post office, they’re quite happy to take big contracts, aren’t they?”

A spokesman for An Post said: “We delivered this in the same way that we delivered other referendum material.”

Libertas’s spend was between €100,000 and €120,000 this time, a spokesman for the organisation fronted by Declan Ganley said. An umbrella grouping representing 15 small organisations, No to Lisbon, spent about €30,000, according to a spokesman.

The People’s Movement, led by former MEP Patricia McKenna, estimated that about €20,000 had been spent.

Richard Boyd Barrett, of the People Before Profit Alliance (PBPA), said PBPA’s total spend was “certainly under €10,000”.

Anthony Coughlan, director of National Platform, said the group spent between €3,000 and €4,000, mainly on the postage and circulation of documents and photocopying.

Donations cannot exceed €6,348.69. A spokesman for the Standards in Public Office (Sipo) Commission said political parties are required to supply documentation on donations by the end of January next, but there are no regulations regarding spending limits in a referendum.

Unlike political parties, other groups are not required to disclose donations received in referendum campaigns.

A political donations account must be opened if donations in excess of €126.97 are received.

The cost: what the main groups spent 

YES

Fianna Fail €500,000

Fine Gael €300,000

Labour €200,000

Green Party €13,000

Ireland for Europe €500,000

Ryanair just under €500,000

Intel €300,000

We Belong €250,000

Ibec €150,000

Generation Yes €30,000

NO

Cóir €250,000

UKIP €190,000

Libertas €100,000-€120,000

Sinn Féin €100,000

Socialist Party €55,000-€60,000 No To Lisbon €30,000

People’s Movement €20,000

People Before Profit Alliance

under €10,000

National Platform €3,000

OTHER

Referendum Commission under €4 million

Department of Foreign Affairs €700,000

European Commission at least €150,000

Figures supplied by individual parties and groups