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From a BMW to a Passat, Cowen drives down costs for a not-so-super draw

LAST year it was a 'super draw' full of Celtic Tiger leftovers, this year it's a draw that ranks patio furniture among its top prizes.

Even Fianna Fail's big fundraising raffle isn't immune from savage cutbacks it seems, as the party has taken the An Bord Snip approach to its annual giveaway.

While once the party boasted prizes including BMWs and big cash sums, this year's winners will have to settle for something along the lines of a Hyundai i30 and garden furniture.

But despite the fact that the Government party continues to struggle in the polls, they are still asking supporters to hand over €50 for a ticket.

At the same time the prizes for the super draw have fallen in value faster than crisis-hit bank shares. Last year's prize fund was over €100,000 with top prizes of a BMW 3 series and a Mitsubishi Lancer worth €40,000 and €24,000 respectively.

This year the downgraded list of goodies has top offerings of a Volkwagen Passat and Hyundai i30 -- the combined value of which is barely more than the BMW on its own. And it seems that after months of devastating floods and a big freeze, Fianna Fail are expecting good weather this summer.

Third prize -- which was €10,000 last year -- is a set of garden furniture complete with a BBQ, table and chairs.

Thirty holidays that were handed out last year have also been replaced by digital cameras and DVD players.

The raffle is one of big cash-raising initiatives brought in by Fianna Fail after the Taoiseach closed down the infamous Galway Races tent.

Cash raised from the draw will be pumped back into the party operation, while it is likely that at least some will be put aside to build a war-chest for the next general election.

The €50 entry fee, or a book of 12 tickets for €500, comes with free membership of Cairdre Fianna Fail with the closing date for entry set at March 24.

The draw is part of an Obama-style PR approach that was launched last year in tandem with a new party website on which senior ministers regularly post videos to outline their stance on public issues.

kdoyle@herald.ie