Dodgy dealings are never far from Irish politics, it seems. A report by the Irish Independent found that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael had used a change in law to classify their raising half a million and a million euro respectively as “charitable.” 

Sinn Féin was not far behind raising €200,000 from hosting a golf tournament and dinner in the US. One would wonder how many working class teams were forking over €7500 for the game, or the €1000-a-plate dinner. Santa Claus must have been very good to them the last few years.

The largesse of these political parties should come as no surprise – money is what wins elections in the modern era, with less and less importance placed on the traditional canvassing team structure as social media continues to dominate people’s lives. And while no doubt there are some dodgy financial dealings going on viz-a-viz some political parties, we are left to analyse the incomes and expenditures that parties feel like sending to SIPO.

Thankfully SIPO has a flexible layout and a breakdown of PDFs by party and a further breakdown by year (if you don’t want to trawl the entire single document for the 2019 year). While we have not been made privy to the expenditures of political parties through the 2020 General Election, we do have access to the 2019 European election, the Dáil bye-elections which closed off 2019 and the Seanad Bye Election in 2021.

I’ll not bore you with a repeat of the statistics line for line, but what the annual reports show us is that of large parties which are little more than adjuncts to money-making machines. Fianna Fáil had €7 million in income, Fine Gael raised over €6 million, Sinn Féin raised €4 million.

The only party named as “far-right” and which submitted political accounts, the Irish Freedom Party, showed a total inability to raise funds, even compared with the closest Regime Party – People Before Profit. PBP raised around €23,000 from its membership (not including the near million euro it received from the State) in one year. IFP raised a paltry €1600. 

With Renua no longer having access to State funding (and their membership income being effectively nothing post-2016), the picture is not much brighter for them and they didn’t submit a 2019 account. 

Given the obvious grift the Burkean has previously exposed vis-a-vis Jim Dowson’s patsy Niall McConnell, who potentially raised tens of thousands before being disowned by the rest of the nationalist-right, and the ability of the Irish Council for Human Rights to raise nearly €150,000 for a court battle with the State – the money should be there for a nationalist-right to compete electorally, yet it isn’t.

The question we should ask ourselves is what are “far-right” political parties lacking? I would think that it is a failure to ask for money, to say where that money will be directed, and to make public accounts of where that money ultimately went. 

If populists want to compete against the eye-watering amounts raised by larger political parties, they  better get used to asking for money and taking responsibility for it. Nobody is ever winning an election on pennies.

Posted by Donnachadh O'Neill

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