Saturday 19 October 2019

Revealed... how U2 star's cash helped give Michael D the edge over Aras rivals

l U2 guitarist and top chef gave €1,000 to Higgins campaign

U2 guitarist The Edge and Michelin star chef Ross Lewis were among donors to President Michael D Higgins's re-election campaign, it has been revealed.

Disclosures by the six candidates in last year's race for Aras an Uachtarain show that combined election expenses reached €1.36m.

Just three candidates - Mr Higgins, Independent senator Joan Freeman and businessman and former Dragons' Den star Sean Gallagher - declared any donations of more that €600.


The records have been published by the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) in its report on the 2018 presidential election.

They showed that incumbent candidate Mr Higgins received more donations and spent more money on his campaign - €367,338 - for another seven years in the Phoenix Park than any of his rivals.

The Edge. Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images
The Edge. Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

Controversial independent candidate and another former 'Dragon' Peter Casey, who came a surprise second, spent the least out of any of the contenders, disclosing costs of €119,911.

Mr Higgins and Mr Casey were the only candidates that won a high enough share of the vote to have any expenses reimbursed.

The President had €200,000 handed back - the maximum sum available to qualifying candidates.

Mr Casey had his full expenditure of €119,911 reimbursed.

Mr Higgins's campaign disclosed contributions totalling €41,300 from more than 40 individual donors.

Donations under €600 don't have to be reported to Sipo.

'The Edge', who is listed under his real name of David Evans, donated €1,000, the maximum sum allowed.

Mr Higgins attended a U2 concert in Dublin in the weeks following his election.

Separately, Mr Lewis, the chef proprietor at Michelin Star restaurant Chapter One, is also listed as donating €1,000 to Mr Higgins's campaign.

Out of Mr Higgins's total election expenses of €367,338, some €75,300 was spent on posters, almost €50,000 on advertising and €143,000 under a category described as 'other election material', which included leaflets and €14,400 expenditure on his campaign website.

Independent senator and Pieta House founder Ms Freeman had the second highest election expenses, disclosing spending of €253,194.

Her campaign disclosed donations of €24,000. Among the contributors listed is Des Walsh - a US-based millionaire and Ms Freeman's former boyfriend - who donated €1,000.

It emerged during the campaign that Mr Walsh also provided a €120,000 loan to Ms Freeman's election bid which the candidate said she would be paying back with interest.


Mr Gallagher received a total of €9,000 in donations and spent €246,820 in what was his second failed bid for the presidency.

The report does not record donations to any other candidates.

A total of €209,716 was spent on Sinn Fein candidate Liadh Ni Riada's campaign, with Sinn Fein paying out almost €80,000 on posters.

Another Dragons' Den star, Gavin Duffy - who came last in the election - disclosed spending of €163,438.

Mr Duffy picked up 32,198 votes, meaning his election expenses came to around €5 per vote. Mr Casey's expenditure was equivalent to around 34c per vote.

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