Thursday, November 30, 2017

By Daniel McConnell

The two parties of the last government — Fine Gael and Labour — posted a combined deficit of almost €3m last year, despite receiving funding of almost €8m from taxpayers, the Irish Examiner can reveal.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil managed to deliver a €500,000 surplus off the back of state funding totalling €5.3m.

Fine Gael’s dire general election performance last year saw its deficit grow three-fold last year to €1.2m, despite receiving funding from the taxpayer of more than €5m, it can be revealed.

On foot of the “disappointing” election result, the party was forced to implement a “swift and significant cost restructuring”, according to its annual financial accounts which included details of the €141,000 salary of general secretary Tom Curran.

While the report highlights the party’s “historic” return to Government, it said that “the election result was disappointing”.

“A drop in Oireachtas seats was expected based on the reduced Dáil size and number of resignations during the 2011-2016 parliament. However, the final number of members returned fell well below the party’s targets,” the report said.

“The reduced number of Fine Gael Oireachtas members has meant a significant reduction in party funding and as a consequence a swift and significant cost restructuring programme was prepared and implemented.”

The stark figures are captured in the annual financial statements released by the Standards in Public Office.

In response, a Fine Gael spokesman told the Irish Examiner the €1.2m deficit included €1.46m of election expenses.

“Excluding that expense, the party ran a surplus. The party also undertook a significant cost-restructuring programme, which was prepared and completed in 2016. This all has returned Fine Gael to a very strong surplus position in 2017,” the spokesman said.

Fine Gael also took out a loan to cover its general election expenses which it says it is fully and quickly reducing that loan in line with the loan’s terms and conditions.

“Fine Gael also has a strong fundraising function, raising €1.4m gross in 2016. The party had €1.2m of cash in the bank at the end of 2016, the second strongest cash position of all parties,” the party spokesman said.

“As such, Fine Gael is well resourced not only to make any loan repayments required but is also well prepared for any situations that might occur.”

The Labour Party received €2.3m in State funding in 2016 and its total income was €2.5m, yet it managed to spend over €4.2m, resulting in a deficit of €1,644,823.

Yet, according to the accounts, the party is sitting on a cash pile of €1.8m.

In terms of Fianna Fáil, the accounts reveal its total spending was €6,619,285 and it spent €6,155,883, giving it a surplus of €463,402. The documents also reveal that the party’s secretary general Sean Dorgan was paid a salary of €138,915.

Sinn Fein’s accounts show it received €3,045,439 in funding from taxpayers, while its total income amounted to €3,410,004 in relation to its activities in the Republic. The party spent €3,218,233, leaving it in surplus to the tune of €191,771. The party paid benefits of what it called “key management personnel” to the tune of €183,739.

The accounts also show that Renua Ireland leader John Leahy is paid a salary of €65,000 a year since October. The party receives State funding amounting to €218,744 a year.

The Anti Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit got state funding of €717,917 and total income amounting to €736,116 while it spent €530,309, leaving a surplus of €205,807.

Sipo published the accounts of 14 registered political parties with three of those — The Communist Party of Ireland, Direct Democracy Ireland and the Workers & Unemployed Action Group — deemed to have filed incomplete documentation.

This article first appeared in today’s Irish Examiner.

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