Belfast Telegraph

Fianna Fail urging funding reforms

Fianna Fail has proposed a referendum be held on the day of the presidential election to completely ban big business funding parties.

The party said ending all corporate donations would require a constitutional amendment to be put to the people, possibly later this year.

But leader Micheal Martin said new laws, including having to declare donations over 100 euro within a fortnight, could be put in place by the summer.

Mr Martin said the damning findings of the Moriarty Tribunal have emphasised the need for the Dail to act swiftly.

"We have taken extensive legal advice in drafting this bill, which will effectively end corporate donations and dramatically increase the levels of transparency in political funding and expenditure," Mr Martin said.

"To go further would, we are advised, require a constitutional referendum, which we are committed to proposing be held on the same day as the Presidential election later this year."

The Government pledged to prioritise the introduction of new laws to ban corporate donations as it unveiled its legislative programme for the coming months last week. Mr Martin said Fianna Fail's Bill would ensure that the changes are in place by the summer.

Key points in the bill include: ensuring all corporate donations over 100 euro would have to be declared within 14 days, authorised by a general meeting and registered with the Standards in Public Offices Commission; all companies, directors and significant shareholders would have to declare and current or potential public contracts at the time of making any donation, and cutting the allowable individual donations to political parties from 6,348 euro to 2,500 euro, with the level at which these must be publicly declared to fall from 5,078 euro to 1,000 euro.

It also suggests: requiring the publication of donation statements within 25 days of polling; providing for Sipo to audit the accounts of political parties each year, with the income and expenditure account, balance sheet and donations statement to be published, and implementing the recommendations of Mr Justice Michael Moriarty to extend the provisions to independent candidates.

"Rather than waiting for months and potentially not changing the situation until early next year at the latest, we believe that the government should support this bill and allow it to go forward to committee where amendments can be made," Mr Martin said.

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