Parties got €13m in State funding

The political parties represented in the Dáil received almost €13 million in funding from the taxpayer last year, according to…

The political parties represented in the Dáil received almost €13 million in funding from the taxpayer last year, according to official figures released yesterday by the Standards in Public Office Commission.

Six parties qualified for State funding under two headings, the Electoral Acts and the Party Leader's Allowance scheme, which are used to fund the day-to-day activities of the political parties.

Fianna Fáil was the largest beneficiary, receiving €4,903,423 in total from the two funds last year.

Fine Gael received €3,364,921, Labour was given €2,082,391 and the Progressive Democrats received €835,358.

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The Green Party received funding of €704,436 while Sinn Féin received €773,246.

The Socialist Party benefited to the tune of €64,212 last year under the Party Leader's Allowance.

Independent TDs received €514,158 under the scheme while Independents in the Seanad got €104,970.

By law, none of the funding is subject to income tax, and it may not be used for electoral or referendum purposes.

The money paid out under the Party Leader's Allowance is based on representation in the Dáil and Seanad while the funding under the Electoral Acts is based on the number of votes achieved by each party in the previous general election.

Following the recent election, Fine Gael will receive a substantial increase in funding for 2007, as it gained 20 seats and over 120,00 votes by comparison with 2002.

The money allocated to the other Dáil parties will remain approximately the same.

The funding provided under the Electoral Acts must be used for "general administration of the party; research, education and training; policy formulation and the co-ordination of the activities of the branches and members of the party". The money distributed under the Party Leader's Allowance is intended to be used to pay for expenses arising from parliamentary activities, including research by the party.

The parties had different priorities in the allocation of their State resources.

Fianna Fáil spent €2.2 million, or most of its allocation under the Electoral Acts, on general administration.

The biggest sum under the Party Leader's Allowance, €1.9 million, was spent on general administration of the parliamentary party. Other significant amounts were spent on policy formulation (€605,411) and on consultancy services, including public relations (€428,169). A sum of €228,174 was spent on the provision of transport and personal expenses for the party leader, party officers and front-bench spokespersons. The party did not spend anything from its State allocation on "polling", nor did it spend any of the funds on encouraging women or young people to participate in politics.

By contrast, Fine Gael spent a significant sum on polling and on promoting politics for women and young people. It also spent far more than Fianna Fáil on the activities of the party organisation and on its branches. Significant sums were also spent on general administration.

Labour spent far more than the other parties under the heading "provision of technical or specialist advice likely to be required in connection with legislative proposals or potential parliamentary initiatives". The party allocated €256,167 to this area, with over €900,000 going to general administration. Like Fine Gael, Labour also spent significant amounts on the promotion of participation by women and young people in politics.

Sinn Féin and the Green Party also spent money across a range of headings, with the biggest sums going on general administration. The PDs spent almost all the party allocation on general administration.