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War chest of at least €144,000 available to Yes side to campaign in March 8th referendums

Funds available to political parties and others campaigning for a Yes-Yes vote is vastly larger than the spending plans of prominent voices on the No-No side

The Yes-Yes side in the referendums on family and care has a combined war chest of at least €144,000, a level of funding that is vastly larger than the spending planned by prominent voices on the opposing side.

The three Government parties are spearheading the Yes-Yes campaign.

In next Friday’s referendums, the Government proposes – in two votes – expanding the definition of family in the Constitution to recognise “durable relationships”, such as cohabiting couples and their children, and replacing the language around women’s “duties in the home” with language recognising care within families.

The spending of taxpayer funding to parties on referendum campaigns is prohibited, but they can use revenues accumulated through their own fundraising.


A Fine Gael statement said it has allocated €55,000 to this campaign, to be spent on a mix of posters, literature and advertising.

Fianna Fáil did not offer an estimate for its spending, saying: “We will report on our allocated campaign budget in due course in accordance with the relevant guidelines.”

The Green Party has earmarked €12,000 for the campaign, including the cost of 800 posters.

Sinn Féin, also supporting Yes votes, expects to spend €10,000 mostly for leaflets and posters. The Labour Party is set to spend €2,000.

People Before Profit will spend about €400 between the costs of holding an event setting out its reluctant support for Yes votes and the cost of producing a video on the party’s stance.


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The Social Democrats said the figure for its spending was not yet available.

Combined spending by political parties will not be anywhere near more than €323,000 parties spent promoting the Yes side in the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum.

The National Women’s Council (NWC) said it has some €53,488 including funds from “unrestricted reserves” for the Yes-Yes campaign.

NWC said it would spend “no more than what we raise”. Expenditure includes the campaign launch and co-ordination, high-vis jackets, leaflets, local advertisements, badges, the website and staff costs.

Some of the NWC’s general funding comes from the State.

Asked what measures it is taking to ensure State funds are not used for the referendums, the council said: “NWC is fully compliant with the legislation and guidelines governing expenditure in referendums and has a proven track record from previous referendum campaigns.”

It continued: “We have stringent financial controls in place, which we adhere to for all transactions regarding expenditure in this referendum.”

Another non-governmental organisation on the Yes side, One Family, said it expects to spend up to approximately €12,000 on flyers, advertising and events.

Both NWC and One Family are registered as so-called third parties with the electoral watchdog, the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo), as are the Iona Institute and the Christian Solidarity Party, two organisations that are supportive of No votes.

Individuals or groups that are not a political party and receive a donation for “political purposes” exceeding the value of €100 must register as a “third party”.

The definition of “political purposes” in Sipo guidelines includes seeking to “influence the outcome of the election or a referendum or a campaign”.

Independent Senator Sharon Keogan, who has been advocating No votes, set up a GoFundMe account on Wednesday aiming to raise €40,000 to pay for 5,000 posters and a full-page advert in a Sunday newspaper. As of Friday morning donations stood at more than €14,100.

Ms Keogan said her initiative was “ambitious” in the short time frame but she is “determined to make a difference in this campaign”. She said she has sent her paperwork to Sipo to register as a third party and she will “comply with all regulations”.

The Iona Institute previously spent large sums on the No side of the referendums on same-sex marriage (€194,530) and the repeal of the Eighth Amendment on abortion (€211,000).

Responding to questions, Iona’s chief executive, David Quinn, indicated that the institute was not planning any spending on the No campaign.

The institute commissioned a poll by Amárach that covered a topic relevant to the referendum on care, the results of which appeared in the media.

Asked if poll could amount to campaign spending, Mr Quinn said: “The poll was inexpensive because it was attached to an omnibus poll and the sample was quite small. I don’t know if it counts as campaign expenditure as such. We often commission polls along similar lines to track public opinion on such issues. We will need to contact Sipo about it to be sure.”

Aontú, which is campaigning for No votes in both referendums, plans to spend “less than €2,000″, according to party leader Peadar Tóibín, on posters and leaflets.

Cathal Ashbourne Loftus, secretary of the Christian Solidarity Party, said it would spend less than €1,000.

The Irish Women’s Lobby (IWL), another organisation on the No side, said it was “run on a voluntary basis and all expenses come from the pockets of our volunteers. For this reason we have spent a minimal amount.”

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Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times