IrishExaminer.com: SF at risk of losing

SF at risk of losing €800,000 in State funding

23 February 2005

By Harry McGee, Cormac O’Keeffe and John Breslin
SINN FÉIN would be in jeopardy of losing €800,000 in annual funding from the State if proposed changes to the Electoral Act are accepted by the Government.

The changes in the rules governing statutory funding for parties are included in a Labour Party Bill which was outlined by party leader Pat Rabbitte to the Dáil.

He said if political parties are not willing to sign a declaration subscribing to the institutions of the State, then they should not qualify for public funding.

Arguing that there was a need to protect democracy in the light of recent extraordinary events, Mr Rabbitte said: “The most basic prerequisite that we should require of all democratic parties, which want to access public moneys, ought to be fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.”

He said taxpayers would be horrified to discover that public money was “intermingled with the proceeds of nefarious activities”.

Tánaiste Mary Harney indicated the Government may be willing to explore this approach. “We need to examine many issues surrounding the funding of political parties, I hope, in an all-party context,” she said.

In 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, Sinn Féin got €841,000 in Exchequer funding. That was made up of €266,000 under the party leaders’allowance; €416,000 in general funding under the Electoral Acts; and €158,000 in expenses reimbursed to candidates.

The proposal came as Northern Secretary Paul Murphy confirmed that the British Government is extending sanctions against the party in the light of the recent International Monitoring Commission report on the Northern Bank raid.

And the party found itself further rebuked after Fine Gael Justice spokesman Jim O’Keeffe said Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh should resign his Dáil seat after the conviction of four IRA men in the Special Criminal Court on Monday.

He said Mr Ó Snodaigh’s position would be untenable in any other political party. Sinn Féin denied its TD had any connection with the four.

Meanwhile, gardaí investigating the suspected IRA money laundering operation expect to be in a position to send files to the DPP in “two to three weeks”, according to garda sources.

Gardai are expected to travel to a number of countries including Bulgaria, to examine whether money was laundered offshore.

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