Labour TD accuses FF over rise in election spending

 

Fianna Fail has been accused of trying to buy the next general election by means of new legislation which would allow the party to spend close to an extra £1 million.

The Labour Party spokesman on the Environment, Mr Eamonn Gilmore, accused the Minister for the Environment, Mr Dempsey, of using the Electoral (Amendment) Bill as a cover to provide for a "massive hike" in the amount of money that parties and candidates can spend at elections.

"While the Bill was promoted publicly as providing for electronic voting, the most significant provision by far is the section providing for huge increases in the amount of money that can be spent in trying to get somebody elected," said Mr Gilmore.

Fine Gael's environment spokesman, Mr Ivan Yates, said the Minister was "disguising a Fianna Fail party hidden political agenda" in his proposals for electoral reform.

Mr Dempsey responded last night that the criticisms were "just rhetoric". He said that he made it clear in the Dail in 1997 that he strongly disagreed with the limits which were imposed at that time. What he was proposing, he said, were realistic limits.

Mr Yates said that in recent discussions between the main political parties, Fine Gael had opposed the idea of increasing the election spending limits. "I believe that these proposals should be immediately referred to the Dail Environment Committee for detailed consideration so they cannot be rammed through the Dail without all-party agreement," he said.

"I see this as a crude attempt by Fianna Fail to buy the next general election, as they are the only party who are seeking these huge increases."

Mr Gilmore said the 1997 Electoral Act provided for expenditure limits of £14,000 per candidate in a three-seat constituency, £17,000 per candidate in a four-seater, and £20,000 per candidate in a five-seater.

"These limits are now to be increased to £20,000 (an increase of 43 per cent), £25,000 (an increase of 47 per cent) and £30,000 (an increase of 50 per cent)."

He said there was absolutely no justification for these increases, which were many times the rate of inflation, and neither had there been any general demand from political parties for such an increase.