Taoiseach announces political reforms

 

Politicians will have to channel all donations into special bank accounts under sweeping reforms aimed at restoring confidence in public life announced by the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, yesterday.

Under the wide-ranging package of proposals, limits will be imposed on the size of donations politicians and political parties can receive from any source in a year.

The Taoiseach also promised to look at the possibility of banning foreign fundraising by political parties. This will most seriously affect Sinn Fein, which last year declared donations of $117,185 from the US. Fianna Fail declared donations of $78,448 from the US for 1999.

Mr Ahern said that while the overwhelming majority of public representatives had given selflessly to the political system, he had been dismayed at the fact a small number of people in public life had traded upon or abused their position for financial gain.

The proposals include:

A cap of £20,000 on the amount a political party and £5,000 on the amount a public representative or political candidate can receive from any single source in any given year. The limit will be extended to donations received in the form of benefit in kind from individuals or companies.

Legislation requiring all public representatives and political parties to deposit political donations into a special bank account. It will be an offence not to pay money into such an account.

Legislation for the prevention, prosecution and punishment of corruption.

Legislation to protect whistleblowers.

Legislation to regulate lobbyists.

In an article in today's Irish Times, the Taoiseach says radical reform of the regulatory framework for public life is an important step in re-establishing the public esteem of political life.