Councillor returns donation found to be above legal limit

 

A SOUTH Dublin councillor who ran in the general election in 2007 has returned a political donation after it emerged he received €5,000 from two companies owned by the same developer.

Fine Gael Councillor John Bailey received two cheques of €2,500 each; one from Devondale Ltd and the other from Brian Durkan Company Ltd in Dún Laoghaire. Mr Durkan is managing director of both companies and both are subsidiaries of Devondale Holdings Ltd.

The two companies also work out of the same offices; Durkan House on York Road, near the centre of Dún Laoghaire.

When contacted by The Irish Times, Mr Bailey, who is a councillor on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, said he was unaware that Mr Durkan was managing director of both companies. He said he would return the donation to Devondale immediately.

The money was raised through a fundraising dinner organised by Mr Bailey and his supporters to fund his campaign in advance of the 2007 general election.

He raised a total of €18,500 for his campaign and ran in the tightly-fought constituency of Dún Laoghaire. He competed against Minister of State for Planning Ciarán Cuffe, Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews and Minister for Tourism Mary Hanafin as well as Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore and former Fine Gael minister Seán Barrett.

Mr Bailey disclosed all of the donations he received to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

Under legislation, candidates may only accept a donation of up to €2,539.48 from an individual in a single year. Donors are required to declare political donations they make if they exceed €5,078.95.

A company and its subsidiaries are deemed to be a single legal entity for the purposes of donations. Donations made by a company and its subsidiaries must be aggregated when being declared to the commission. The aggregated donations from Mr Durkan’s two companies total €5,000, almost twice as much as is allowed. Where a donation is over the limit, the candidate must notify the commission within 14 days of its receipt and either send the excess donation to the commission or return it to the donor.

Mr Bailey was criticised by Mr Cuffe for receiving donations from the two linked companies. Mr Cuffe said he “tried not to spend time undermining others”, but he was concerned by the donations.

Mr Bailey, however, said Mr Cuffe was simply playing “dirty politics” and was worried about his seat in the Dáil.

He said the Minister should concentrate on important matters in the constituency, including high unemployment, numbers on the housing waiting list and the lack of paediatric services locally.

“I’ve always declared everything and I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done. Everything I do is straight on the table. I work 6½ days a week for Dún Laoghaire. Nobody has been stronger against developers,” he said.

Mr Bailey said he was unaware that Mr Durkan was a managing director of both companies and had simply made a mistake.

He said he would go to Mr Durkan’s office and return the donation straight away.

A spokeswoman for Mr Durkan later confirmed she had received a hand-delivered cheque for €2,500 from Mr Bailey made out to Devondale Ltd.

She said Mr Durkan was on holiday and would not be available for comment.