Sinn Féin made two more errors in 2020 election expenses statement

Party incorrectly listed sums in euro for spending charged in sterling, leading to an under-declaration of €945

Sinn Féin made two more errors in its 2020 election expenses statement when it incorrectly listed sums in euro for spending charged in sterling, leading to an under-declaration of €945.

The party is to seek to correct its statement to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo).

Sinn Féin previously had to change its declaration for the 2020 general election after it omitted spending on an opinion poll costing almost €7,000.

The issue of election expenses has been the subject of controversy for almost two weeks.


Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe was heavily criticised after it took him a week – and three separate statements – to outline the full extent of donations made to his campaigns by businessman Michael Stone.

The errors in Sinn Féin’s 2020 election expenses statement were brought to the party’s attention by The Irish Times.

Two entries under the “publicity” category in Sinn Féin’s return to Sipo related to work the party had carried out by businesses in Northern Ireland.

The first related to work done by Belfast-based company Offline Central on editing Sinn Féin’s party political broadcast for the election. The party recorded the spending as being €4,800. However, the invoice from the company shows the work was charged for in Sterling at a rate of £4,800.

The second entry was for work carried out on television and radio material by Newtownards business HotPress Sound. Similarly in this instance the party declared the spending as being €800 when the invoice shows the work was charged £800 in sterling.

“This was an administrative error that should not have happened,” Sinn Féin said in a statement. “It will be corrected and returned to Sipo.”

The statement added: “Both invoices were paid by the party in the south, at the following rates – Offline Central: €5601.25 and Hot Press Sound: €943.96.”

Based on the these figures the errors amount to an under-declaration of €945.21.

European elections

There was also an omission in Sinn Fein’s expenses statement for the 2019 European elections. Two of its candidates, Matt Carthy in Midlands North West and Lynn Boylan in Dublin, assigned all their campaign spending to the party nationally.

While spending on all individual items for both candidates was included in the national statement, the party did not report the total expenditure made on behalf of each candidate by the party, as required under SIPO rules. The sections were left blank.

While the third candidate, Liadh Ní Riada, filed a personal election expenses statement, the party nationally also made payments on behalf of her campaign. Her expenditure on the national statement is also itemised individually but, like her colleagues, the total expenditure is not reported.

The party said the omissions were a result of a simple error.

Previously it emerged that Sinn Féin failed to declare spending on an opinion poll carried out by British company Survation during the 2020 election at a cost of almost €7,000. The party said the invoice was “accidentally omitted due to staff working remotely as a result of public health restrictions.

“When this came to our attention, the statement was immediately amended and the invoice sent to them [Sipo].”

The party said it was “well within the spending limits laid down for the 2020 general election”.

It was reported on Thursday that Sinn Féin also failed to disclose expenses worth more than €2,000 for six events it held during the 2016 general election campaign.

A party spokesman said Sinn Féin held 23 press events during the 2016 general election campaign, with only six of these held at indoor venues.

“Their use should have been included in our election return seven years ago. We regret that they were not,” he said. “The total value of the hire of these venues was €2,160.70. All these invoices – bar one – were paid at the time. The remaining invoice has now been paid.”

The spokesman said the party’s election return would now be amended as appropriate and returned to Sipo.

He pointed out that the maximum amount permitted to be spent by Sinn Féin in 2016 was €229,000 at a national level.

“Even with the addition of these invoices, Sinn Féin’s election expenses were less than a third of this amount,” he said.

Fianna Fáil

While visiting Irish troops in South Lebanon on Thursday, Tánaiste Micháel Martin was asked whether he believed Fianna Fáil had any questions to ask regarding political donations and election spending.

“We take the legislation very seriously and have done on a consistent basis over the last number of elections since the legislation came in,” said Mr Martin.

“In the overall context, huge progress has been made in Ireland in respect of spending in elections.”

Mr Martin said Irish legislation has “transformed both the electoral and political scene from a funding point of view.”

“Ireland actually has one of the stricter regimes in terms of how much one can spend in an election and how much one one can receive,” said Mr Martin.

He said that when compared with the United States, Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and many European countries, Ireland has a “much stricter framework and that framework has worked”.

Mr Martin added that “in parallel with that [legislation] has been the state funding of political parties which has also helped enormously in terms of disconnecting, if you like, the idea of money and influence having an impact on politics”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times