Sinéad Gibney says she lost €20,000 in unsuccessful bid for European Parliament

Ms Gibney said about €60,000 was spent on her campaign

Ms Gibney said she knows the Social Democrats 'appreciate what I’ve put on the line for this election'. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/PA Wire

Social Democrats candidate Sinéad Gibney has said she personally lost €20,000 in her unsuccessful bid for a European Parliament seat and sold her car to part-fund her election bid. Ms Gibney fell short of the threshold for reimbursement of campaign expenses by just 440 votes.

She stepped down as chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission earlier this year to seek the Social Democrats’ nomination to run for Europe.

In all she said about €60,000 was spent on her campaign, including €25,000 from the Social Democrats and €15,000 raised through online crowdfunding.

Candidates who exceed a quarter of the quota are entitled to apply for a reimbursement of election expenses.


A quarter of the quota was 18,836.

Ms Gibney was eliminated following the 15th count, finishing with 18,396 votes, 440 short of the threshold which she said was “heart-breaking”.

With as much as €64,400 available in reimbursement for qualifying candidates, the sum would have covered the cost of her campaign and helped her launch a planned run for the Dáil in the general election.

She told The Irish Times she is proud of her campaign, particularly her “positive” contribution to the debate on immigration. She said she is “coming out of this feeling bruised but good about what lies ahead”.

Ms Gibney said she knows the Social Democrats “appreciate what I’ve put on the line for this election” adding: “They have given me their full backing for this run.”

She said she hopes to secure the same support for a bid to win a Dáil seat.

Ms Gibney said she had “some of the most stressful moments of my life” during the count trying to figure out where she might come in the race and, when that was known, whether she should seek a recount. Ms Gibney said the 440 votes was too high a shortfall to warrant the delay and extra costs to the State that a recount would entail.

She said she is now on the hunt for a job – albeit it may have to be part-time with a general election looming.

She said: “The financial aspect of this was really tough for me because I did put so much on the line ... but I know that I’m also in a very privileged position.”

She said her career, which included “high-profile roles” in the private and public sector, “will allow me to get back on my feet”.

Ms Gibney estimated that she had about a quarter of the posters of the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael candidates. She said this limited her reach to potential voters.

She said: “It’s tough for the small parties to break through in that situation” and “most of us would welcome that posters should be restricted to a numbered amount per candidate”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times