herald

Sunday 30 April 2017

Reilly apologises after watchdog sends gardai file on election cash

Mr Reilly failed to get a receipt
Mr Reilly failed to get a receipt

Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly has apologised over a controversy regarding cash donations he received during the election campaign.

Reilly failed to provide the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) with proof he returned an excessive political donation.

Mr Reilly's failure to provide Sipo with the correct documentation resulted in the ethics watchdog forwarding a file on the former health minister to gardai.

Mr Reilly mistakenly believed he could receive a €1,000 cash donation from a supporter, but the rules stipulate politicians can only receive €200 in cash from an individual. However, non-cash donations of €1,000 are permitted.

Receipt

The Fine Gael senator said he returned €800 to the political donor but did not get an appropriate receipt to prove he did. Mr Reilly said he would get a receipt and send it to Sipo.

Speaking on RTE Radio One, Mr Reilly said: "I would certainly apologise because it is my fault and nobody else's."

"Nobody wants to be embarrassed or cause people needless work. I suppose if there is an upside it's that Sipo is clearly doing its job," he added.

Mr Reilly was among 66 General Election candidates referred to gardai by Sipo.

Independent Alliance candidate Carol Hunt, who is now Transport Minister Shane Ross's spokeswoman, was referred, as was former Social Democrat Senator James Heffernan.

Louis O'Connell - a Fine Gael election agent for Brendan Griffin, Jimmy Deenihan and Grace O'Donnell - was also referred.

Failing to file expenses or filing incomplete documentation is an offence under strict standards in office legislation.

"On 25 November 2016 the Standards Commission sent 66 files to Garda headquarters concerning the candidates who had failed to return the required statutory documentation," the watchdog said. "These referrals include candidates/election agents who failed to return donation statements, certificates of monetary donations, statutory declarations, statements from a financial institution, or election expenses statements," it added.

More than €5.6m was spent by political parties and independent candidates on election spending.

Fine Gael was the highest-spending party with €2.7m spent on the election, followed by Fianna Fail with a €1.6m bill. Sinn Fein spent €650,190 and the Labour Party spent more than €1m.

Posters

Fine Gael spent €440,480 on advertising during the campaign, while the Labour Party's bill was €212,705. Fianna Fail spent just €27,393.

A total of €416,544 was spent on election posters by all parties and Independents.

Fianna Fail had the biggest spend at €145,891, while Fine Gael spent €136,556 followed by the Labour Party at €112,136. Sinn Fein spent €15,885 on elections posters, according to the party's filing with Sipo.

Fine Gael spent €252,747 on market research and the Labour Party spent €12,223.

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