US arm was a relatively small part of Fianna Fáil fund-raising operation

American funding was small beer compared to activities in Ireland

 Charles Haughey: “wanted to get in on the action”. Photograph: Colman Doyle

Charles Haughey: “wanted to get in on the action”. Photograph: Colman Doyle

 

Fianna Fáil had a formidable (and, at times, notorious) fundraising operation since Taca was set up in the 1960s. Most of the funds it raised were in Ireland where, when it was strongest, it outpaced all other parties by multiples.

The annual dinner each winter in New York was its biggest annual fundraising event outside Ireland. In all, it raised $1.3 million between 1984 and the end of 1999. While the annual average of $81,000 was not to be sniffed at, it was small beer compared to the party’s fundraising activities in Ireland.

And the party was certainly no match for Sinn Féin in the US where the republican movement was taking in 10 times the money each year.

When Taca was set up in the 1960s, Fianna Fáil (seen then as the almost permanent party of government) attracted huge donations from developers and business interests, keen to curry political favour.

Because there was a complete absence of regulation or controls (or indeed disclosure requirements), full details have never come to light. It gave rise to a link between between Fianna Fáil and pork-barrel politics.

Substantial sums

Charles HaugheyDes Hanafin

Under Bertie Ahern’s leadership, the party’s fundraising operation was very slick. One supporter, Des Richardson, became party fundraiser and the Galway Tent came into its own.

Disclosure requirements were introduced in the latter half of the 1990s, but it is possible funds raised during the Galway Races in any one year would have eclipsed the total raised in the US over that 16-year period up to 1999.

In 1998 for example, Friends of Fianna Fáil said it raised about $65,000 in the US. However, in that year alone, Fianna Fáil disclosed a total of more than £400,000 (€508,000) in donations, including £50,000 from Marathon International in Cork; £50,000 from a Ryans Hotel fundraiser; and £25,000 from businessman Martin Naughton. That sum was a fraction of the total raised in Ireland that year.

Contribution

The Irish TimesDeclan GanleyPierre HotelRichard Harris

The staples for the party over the years have been the annual collection and its annual draw – the latter still raises more than €500,000.

However, stricter donation laws plus waning support have meant the party has spent long periods over the past decade in significant debt.

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