Proposal to make political parties disclose property portfolios set for debate

Measure likely to have biggest impact on Sinn Féin

Political parties would have to make an annual declaration about the properties they own under proposals set to be considered by Cabinet on Tuesday.

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O'Brien is expected to seek approval for amendments to legislation aimed at overhauling Ireland's electoral laws and improving transparency around the financing of politics.

It is understood that among the amendments to the Electoral Reform Bill 2022 will be a requirement for political parties to declare their property portfolios.

Such a measure is likely to have the biggest impact on Sinn Féin, which is believed to have the largest property portfolio of any of the parties.

The Irish Times reported in 2020 on how Sinn Féin owns up to 50 properties in constituencies around Ireland. At the time, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil both said they owned a small number of properties.

The proposed amendments to the Electoral Reform Bill 2022 would also bring in a ban on cryptocurrency donations to political parties and a strengthening of the prohibition on foreign donations.

The aim of these measures is to ensure donations from outside the State are not being used to influence elections here.

There is to be a stronger definition of donations in kind; new rules on transparent fundraising; and new consolidated accounts standards for all parties.

The amendments would also end the practice of early voting on Ireland’s offshore islands.

The proposed law provides for the establishment of a new electoral commission which would have new enforcement powers.

The Electoral Reform Bill is also aimed at ensuring transparency in political advertising and bringing online advertising into line with existing regulations.

Registering to vote is also to become more accessible and streamlined under the plans.

Last month Mr O’Brien told the Dáil that the Electoral Reform Bill represents a “significant reform” of Ireland’s electoral legislation, processes and structures.