Sinn Féin TD has ‘some neck’ to start ‘lecturing’ parties about fundraising, says Taoiseach

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn says last-minute amendment to Bill ‘an old fashioned stroke’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has “some neck” to “start lecturing” other political parties about fundraising.

Mr Martin also said there was “nothing wrong” with parties having legitimate means of fundraising and providing for that in law was “the correct thing to do”.

The Taoiseach was speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, after Opposition TDs criticised the Government for setting out only 90 minutes to deal with 150 amendments to the Electoral Reform Bill later this week.

A recent amendment to the Bill would allow political parties to run fundraising lotteries. Fianna Fáil had previously been forced to call off a “super-draw” raffle, intended to raise €500,000, after declaring itself a charity to get a lottery licence.

Mr Mac Lochlainn said the last-minute introduction of the amendment was “an old-fashioned stroke” with “no time to debate it” and that the Government wanted to “push” the legislation through.

Labour TD Ged Nash said the move was “nothing but a good old-style Fianna Fáil political stroke”.

“That’s exactly what it is. This is political reform Fianna Fáil style. It’s absolutely disgraceful,” he said.

Mr Nash said a new way of raising money for political parties was being introduced at the “11th hour”.

“We know the toxic influence of money on the political system. Our history has shown us that and by virtue of that alone, we need to have a very serious scrutiny of this particular measure in this House,” he added.

The Louth TD said 90 minutes to discuss 150 amendments was “disgraceful” and a poor reflection on the Government parties, “railroading an important issue like this through the Dáil with the minimal amount of scrutiny”.

In response, Mr Martin said comments from the Opposition were “deeply disingenuous”

“Sinn Fein is the wealthiest party in Ireland, with over 200 staff, 50 properties, and a network of fundraising in the United States as well as an inheritance that would be illegal here in this Republic,” he said.

“With the greatest respect to the deputy opposite [Mr Mac Lochainn], some neck to start lecturing other parties in terms of fundraising.

“There is nothing wrong with parties having legitimate means of fundraising, if that is by a raffle, there is nothing wrong with that. The idea of providing for that in law in my view is the correct thing to do, it’s transparent, it’s open and political parties should have legitimate avenues to raise money within the legal framework. That’s simply what’s going on here.”

Mr Martin he would “love” a similar level of transparency in relation to the historic fundraising of Sinn Féin and its movement over recent decades.

“You have raised $15 million in the United States over the last number of years . . . €4 million of an inheritance and God only knows what happened when Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA were one of the same thing,” he said to Sinn Féin TDs.

“No one knows where the money went then or how it was translated. That’s the bottom line. I really would love scrutiny and transparency in relation to that.”

The Taoiseach said Labour similarly had alternative means of fundraising through trade unions over the years.

“Let’s not pretend this is some sort of stroke, it’s not,” he said.

Mr Martin said the State had “some of the better” legal frameworks governing political fundraising.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times