I wish to share time with Deputies Mick Wallace, Seamus Healy and Shane Ross.
Electoral (Amendment) (Political Donations) Bill 2011: Second Stage (resumed)
Is that agreed? Agreed.
When Fianna Fáil is sponsoring a Bill such as this it is safe to conclude that its love affair with the construction sector is well and truly over. It is interesting that this comes at a time when the construction industry is in ruins and when Fianna Fáil would struggle to get donations from that sector. Those paying the heaviest price within the construction sector are construction workers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and brick layers, many of whom have had to emigrate or, as it might more appropriately be described, go into exile. Other out of work construction workers are struggling to pay mortgages on homes provided by the very sector in which they worked. The companies they worked for were for decades some of the biggest funders of the right wing political parties.
While I am in favour of planning and building all sorts of things I believe we should never go back to a developer-led approach. As someone who believes in strategic planning, I watched the orgy of rezoning requests, the assumption of a positive relationship between the developers and speculators and the major political parties, in particular Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. I always believed that the money created a culture, opened the door and delivered the result they desired. There is a direct relationship between what occurred in relation to the property bubble and political donations. There may have been infamous cases of people getting payments directly, as evidenced by the tribunals, but the money primarily bought a culture, one for which we will pay heavily well into the future.
As someone who has contested many elections since 1988 without the benefit of big corporate donations I know what it is like to contest an election on a shoe-string. Too often I believed elections were essentially bought, which is perhaps the reason we have limited political choice. I agree that the relationship between big business and politics must be broken. It does not have any place in a healthy democracy. I favour the ending of all significant private donations to politicians and political parties, a register of lobbyists and the vouching of all public moneys paid to politicians and political parties. Although I am cynical in terms of the source of this legislation I do not believe it should be postponed for a day longer than is necessary.
Deputy Martin stated in his speech last night that political donations had created a perception that big business can buy influence by financially supporting the election funds of parties or candidates and that it was having a damaging impression, which is putting it mildly. He might perhaps have said that private capital tends to be concentrated in few hands, the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organised political society. The members of the legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who for all practical purposes separate the electorate from the Legislature. It is probably a no-brainer that we should put an end to all political donations. The practise is certainly unlikely ever to serve the people well.
If we allow big business to influence elections, thus deciding who gets into power the chances of those elected members acting in the best interests of ordinary people at all times is probably pretty slim. It is not unfair to say that for the past 20 years Government has ruled more in the interests of big business than in the interests of ordinary people. There is probably not much point in referring to the massive irony of Fianna Fáil proposing this legislation. Perhaps, however, we should give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they are a little like Paul on the road to Damascus. Perhaps they will be different now.
Wait for the lightening.
They will most likely fall off the horse.
I am probably naive. Time will tell. There is no doubt but that something must change if the people are to garner a better opinion of what happens in this House. The legislation recommends that donations over €1,000 be declared. I believe that all donations over €100 should be declared. The public is entitled to know the identity of anyone who wishes to give €100 or more to a politician.
I will be brief. There is no doubt but that the interface between business and politics in this country has been toxic. That link must be broken. It has created a situation whereby politics and politicians have been brought into disrepute. Politics is now one of the least, if not the least, trusted professions. We have had a string of planning irregularities and tribunals arising from the relationship between business and politics in this country. There is no doubt that link needs to be broken. We need to clean up politics and to have a level playing pitch in the political arena, in particular in respect of elections and the funding of politicians and political parties in elections.
We should not permit any political donations, corporate or otherwise and the State should fund political parties. This is the only way we can be sure there is a level playing field and that donations of whatever nature or amount are, irrespective of whatever law might be in place, not made available to political parties or politicians. State funding is absolutely necessary if we are to clean up politics and ensure trust in the future. Also, there should be reduced spending limits for elections and expenditure and expenses should be examined, assessed and audited not alone on the basis of the 15 or 20 days of an election campaign but for at least 12 months prior to an election. There is no doubt but that period of time is now being used by politicians and political parties to spend significant amounts of money in the run up to elections. Money buys elections. State funding of politicians and political parties is absolutely essential if we are to have a level playing field and an honest and trustworthy political and electoral system.
This is a problem which I do not believe is easily soluble but I welcome the fact it has reached the House so early in the session. If we are honest money buys votes. All the surveys on this suggest that money does buy votes. The question that arises is whether money buys politicians as well. The Irish experience in recent times indicates that money also buys politicians. How to avoid that is difficult. I speak as one who is not conflicted by this having received approximately €9,000 or €10,000 in subscriptions in the last election. I can put my hand on my heart and say those who gave me €9,000 or €10,000 do not have an undue influence on me or a greater influence than those who did not give me money. They have access. If someone gives one €1,000 or €2,000, it is difficult not to take their telephone calls or listen to what they say. It is difficult not to take the telephone calls of everyone in this business.
Money gains people access to far more important politicians than myself. Therefore, it is a realistic problem. This is especially so in the case of big business if businesses are in a position to give large corporate donations that will give them lobbying power that is disproportionate to that of the ordinary person.
The logical conclusion of money being so powerful within the political system is that the State should fund everyone on some sort of level playing pitch, as Deputy Healy said. I am not sure that would work either. What would happen in the allocation by the State of that money? The political party in power would distribute it in a way that is favourable to itself. The system of distribution would favour the party that was in power when the system was introduced. What would happen to individual or independent politicians who would be at a disadvantage? What would happen to those outside the political system who want to begin a new political party or indulge in something that is utterly new? Would they be completely unfunded and where would their cash come from?
This is not a problem that is easy to resolve. We should establish, however, that there should be a level playing field and that large sums of money should be barred from the political system because they give disproportionate influence to the donors.
With the permission of the House, I will share time with Deputies Jerry Buttimer, Dara Murphy, Liam Twomey and Michael McCarthy.
I oppose the Private Members' Bill introduced by Fianna Fáil. Notwithstanding having introduced the Bill, there is not a single Fianna Fáil Deputy in the House to debate its merits. That speaks volumes for Fianna Fáil's commitment to amending legislation on elections or corporate donations. The absence of a single Green Party Deputy in the Dáil also speaks volumes for Fianna Fáil's stated commitment to banning corporate donations or amending the legislation on corporate donations in the House.
As the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Willie Penrose, pointed out when speaking on the Bill, three separate positions have been adopted by Fianna Fáil on this issue since the beginning of the year. One position was taken when in Government, another during the general election, and the position has been modified in the Bill which Fianna Fáil does not see fit to come and debate with the Government and the Deputies who support it.
While each change of policy has been an advance on the previous position, and we welcome that, the Fianna Fáil Party has also adopted a number of different positions on the very important issue of the creation of an independent electoral commission. That was a recommendation of the mission of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, to Ireland in 2007, as the leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Micheál Martin, would be aware and might care to debate with us if he were in the House. The chairmanship of the OSCE is of some import. The Minister for Foreign Affairs will assume that chairmanship in 2012. In advance of that, it is essential that an independent election commission be created. In the report on its mission to Ireland, dated 24 May 2007, the OSCE stated that the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Noel Dempsey, had publicly made such a recommendation. The task force on active citizenship sponsored by the then Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, also made this recommendation in its report, released in April 2007. In the OSCE report of 25 February 2011, however, the best that could be said was that the creation of an independent electoral commission, consolidating responsibilities for the conduct of elections, voter registration and campaign financing into one body, had been on the work plan of the previous Government but was not addressed before its collapse.
Fianna Fáil now purports to address this issue. I say, however, and would say to Fianna Fáil Deputies if there were a single one present in the Dáil, that it is too little too late. The Government has a much more ambitious programme for the reform of political funding arrangements which is already in the process of being implemented. The Government's open Government legislation will also establish an electoral commission to subsume the functions of existing bodies and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.
The Bill, which Fianna Fáil Members do not see fit to come to the House to debate, has some good and welcome proposals. In many respects, however, it is too limited and narrowly focused. It contains a number of flaws that would make its intended provisions unworkable. While the placing of restrictions on corporate donations from companies, trade unions, societies and building societies is provided for, a number of other corporate structures have not been included, as the Minister of State, Deputy Penrose, pointed out. No provision is made for donations by partnerships, unincorporated bodies, trusts, sole traders or non-governmental organisations. The Bill, as it stands, would allow a number of corporate-type bodies to continue to give political donations while restricting others. In its present form, the Bill would not work in practice as it does not address all donors who are not individuals.
The provisions in the Bill represent a change from what was proposed by Fianna Fáil at the general election, with greater reductions now being advocated. Perhaps, the Fianna Fáil Deputies do not agree with the said reductions as they are not here to support their own Bill.
I am alarmed by Deputy Ross saying he would weigh up whether a person had donated to his campaign fund before taking the person's telephone call. It is the job of politicians to treat all their constituents equally and to be fair and balanced to all. While money does influence voters, I do not believe for a second that it buys them.
I welcome the Fianna Fáil metanoia on political reform. It is imperative that they join the rest of us and become fellow travellers on the road to political reform. It is lamentable that there is no Member of Fianna Fáil in the House for this important Bill. If it is to be the centre-piece of Deputy Martin's renewal of the party, he should be present in the House.
There should be a ban on political donations and State funding of political parties. Politics should be open and transparent. We should end cronyism and the old pals' act and move forward collectively with a new sense of what it means to be a politician and an active citizen.
I regret that Deputy Ross is no longer in the Chamber to hear me say that the role of the media, in their coverage of politics, should also be looked at. Some media institutions' attempts to portray politics leave much to be desired. The coverage of yesterday's jobs initiative by certain publications left a sour taste in my mouth. We need to look at the issue of balance in media reporting.
I am pleased to speak on the Bill. It is important we have an honest debate on it. The influence of money must end in Irish politics and the culture of cronyism must cease. The circumstances that are the genesis of this Bill, which were examined by the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments, must never be seen again.
Deputy Mick Wallace remarked that not all of us in politics were influenced by business and money. Many of us who served on local authorities looked to developers when we believed development proposals were wrong or ill conceived. I agree the Bill is necessary. However, as Deputy Michael McNamara said, while its broad thrust is necessary, in a narrative and prescriptive sense, it is narrow and needs to be expanded upon. There are business people who can have a positive influence on politics and the development and evolution of policy. We should not throw out everything relating to those involved in business. I heard Deputy Mick Wallace's fine contribution on the jobs initiative earlier when he spoke as a business person. We must allow people involved in business to have a participative role in politics while not having undue influence. A ban on political donations is the correct way to proceed. It is a pity this was not recognised earlier by politicians on all sides of the House.
I very much welcome the commitment given by the Taoiseach today that the Government would bring forward a comprehensive Bill. It is important that we rebuild trust and the relationship between practising politicians and the general public. During the last general election, there was a great deal of cynicism and disillusionment, mainly to do with events in the Galway tent and the associated friends of Fianna Fáil which have left a very bad legacy. No Member should be here to promote himself or herself. He or she should be here to work for and serve the people who sent us. All people are equal, whether millionaires or struggling to pay their mortgages while unemployed, and should have equal access. Influence should be on the basis of what is best for the community and in the interests of creating a sustainable community encompassing our homes, townlands and cities.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to the Bill. In the first instance, it is amusing and distressing to note that it is only now, after 14 years of inactivity while in government, that Fianna Fáil is introducing this Bill. While Deputy Michael McNamara laments the fact that no Fianna Fáil Deputy is present, it is also important to note that our colleagues in opposition and in government spent many long weeks before the general election trying to reduce the number of Deputies; therefore, it is a mixed blessing. Nonetheless, it is negligent of Fianna Fáil Deputies not to be present to support their own Bill.
Yesterday Deputy Micheál Martin described the Bill as a new departure in how politics were conducted in Ireland. He suggested it was historic in transforming how politics were conducted and would make politics more transparent. He said it would break the link between business and politics, stating, "This Bill will begin the process of restoring confidence in politics after a long and damaging run of controversies." He further stated this new-found ambition of political reform had "as yet" gone undelivered. The reason it has gone undelivered is simply, like so much else we have seen in the last decade and a half, Fianna Fáil and its coalition partners did not deliver or attempt to deliver reform. In fact, it is clear that much of the detail enclosed in the Bill can be seen in the election manifestos of Fine Gael and the Labour Party and, most importantly, the recently published and agreed programme for Government. Significantly, not only does the Bill plagiarise sections of the programme for Government, it also has some flaws which make this amendment too narrowly focused and unworkable. The Bill omits key areas of reform. It is like Fianna Fáil's long and damaging time in office — half-baked, cynical, hypocritical and self-serving. Yesterday Deputy Micheál Martin requested that this debate be free of point-scoring. I can see why, when Fianna Fáil has left the goals unattended and neglected for so long. This is its Bill, after all, and we are entitled to score points and goals.
We must, nonetheless, be constructive. As Members will be aware, the Government has made provision in the current Dáil term for the publication of its own amendment to the political funding Bill and it is expected that draft legislation will be ready in a number of weeks. It is at this point of the debate helpful to reiterate the following commitments made in the programme for Government. Spending limits will be introduced for all elections; political donation limits to parties will be reduced to €2,500; donations to candidates will be reduced to €1,000 and legal and constitutional provisions will be introduced to ban corporate donations to political parties. It is further intended that an electoral commission will subsume the functions of other bodies and some functions of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Importantly, after a very short time in government, many long overdue reforms have either been announced or already taken place. The Minister, Deputy Phil Hogan, announced the following Government decisions last week. A constituency commission will be established after the publication of the 2011 preliminary census results to facilitate the promised reduction in the number of Deputies. The Presidential election spending limit will be reduced from €1.3 million to €750,000, while the figure for expenses which candidates can be reimbursed will be reduced from €260,000 to €200,000.
We all remember the outrageous attempt made by the last Government to prevent the people from having proper representation in this House by delaying the holding of by-elections. The Government has decided to block this cynical obstacle to democracy by ensuring by-elections will take place within six months of a vacancy occurring. It is also preparing separate legislation to give effect to other changes and reforms.
The suggestion made by the Opposition of tardiness in the Government's approach to reform is contradicted in several obvious respects, including the removal of the automatic entitlement to State cars and drivers for Ministers, the cutting of the pay of the Taoiseach, Ministers and Ministers of State, and the removal of severance pay for Ministers. In addition to the measures included in the programme for Government, the recent Moriarty tribunal report outlines some further areas for consideration by the Government in 12 specific recommendations, consideration of which should and will form part of the Government's package of reforms. Given its weaknesses and narrow focus, I urge all Members not to support the Bill.
There is much hypocrisy in politics but that of Fianna Fáil in bringing forward this Private Members' Bill is unbelievable. Restoring decency and faith in public life and the public system will not be done by legislation; therefore, significant further changes beyond the scope of this Bill will be needed. We must change the whole ethos of public life, both as public representatives and within the public service, where bad practices have crept in and been almost institutionalised in the era of Fianna Fáil dominance of political power. The crass arrogance of pious Deputy Micheál Martin is difficult to stomach for the people. When they have to listen to him lecture them about corruption and payments to politicians, they must ask themselves what they are hearing. For Fianna Fáil to try to take credit for acting on the issue of political donations is almost beyond belief and it sickens people to watch this Bill being brought forward. Fianna Fáil should be wearing sackcloth and considering disbanding as a political party, not lecturing the people or trying to pretend it has had a pious change of heart about what has happened in public life in recent years.
It is difficult to run for election and be elected. I do not know if political donations hold great sway in the way people like to believe. I have won elections having received little or no funding and I have lost elections having received a reasonable amount of funding. I have also seen people run very good election campaigns with very little funding. People are sensible about this. However, given all the corruption in recent years, what they want to see is accountability and transparency in how we go about our business. They want to see an end to the days when somebody like Ray Burke could be appointed as a Minister when a cloud was hanging over his head — a person subsequently jailed for tax fraud. They want to see an end to a time when a person like Liam Lawlor, a former Member of this House, was made chairman of the ethics committee of the House. Members at that time knew Liam Lawlor had a cloud over his reputation but they appeared to cock their noses at what people felt or might feel about ethics in public office. They want to see an end to a time when a former elected Taoiseach, the leader of this country, tried to pass off the fact that he earned his money by putting bets on horses. That is the era we must get rid of in Irish public life. We must bring in more honesty and transparency, and a sense of decency about being involved in public life.
I do not claim we will all be perfect and squeaky clean. It does not work like that. There will be things I do believe to be reasonably okay; there will be things my colleague in County Wexford, Deputy Wallace, will do that he will believe to be reasonably okay but which I believe are wrong. That is just the way life is. What we need most of all are accountability to the people, proper transparency about how we go about our business and get elected, and to be honest and decent in how we do our job.
I appreciate being given the opportunity to speak on the issue and am glad to see an issue this important being subjected to robust and constructive debate in the Chamber. I hope the contributions made during the course of this dialogue will go some way towards fine tuning the details concerned so we can enact the best possible legislation to deal with the whole issue of political donations.
In line with previous speakers I must sound a note of irony that Fianna Fáil has introduced this Private Members' Bill so soon into the life of the new Government given it had ample time and opportunity over the 14 years it was in power, not only to publish the Bill but to enact and implement it. Furthermore, the party effectively buried the Bill in the latter months of its tenure in Government in spite of repeated declarations by its colleagues in Government, the Green Party, that it was a top priority of its legislative programme. Fianna Fáil's sudden and renewed interest in the entire area now that its members have entered the Opposition benches strikes me, as I assume it does most reasonable minded commentators, as an act of enormous cynicism and political posturing. It contravenes the party's recent declaration that it was engaging in a new style of constructive politics, bereft of point scoring and one-upmanship.
The Fianna Fáil Bill is not only overdue, it is also vastly underconsidered. It has aspects that are worthy of mention as well as a whole host of absentee points that merit, at very least, declarations.
The link in this country between business and politics is an issue of substantive concern to ordinary people. Unfortunately, in most countries, financial support from business to politicians is perceived by the public to have only one purpose, namely, the securing of commercial advantage. We have seen how the money-driven model of politics that exists in America can infect the public perception of politics, with business and corporate interests seen to be taking precedence over societal interests. In Ireland, this perceived link between political donations and public policy is particularly pronounced because people's views have been further coloured by controversies such as those revealed in the Moriarty, Flood and Mahon tribunals, in spite of the good work they did. They catalogued high profile figures from business and political worlds who were found to have been trousering donations in exchange for various deals, contracts and such like. These lurid scandals rocked the State to its core and have done untold damage to the body politic and to Irish politics in general. That situation does not reflect well on any of us in this House. The real victim is the body politic. Politics is a fine and noble profession. The vast majority of people in this House — some 1,100 throughout the years — have been hardworking, decent, honourable people. Only a handful corrupted the system for their own ends.
Buying influence and access to senior members of Government and civil servants is a practice that belongs firmly in the past, along with the Galway tent and the Charvet shirts, all those words that have become synonymous in recent years with dirty politics. Sometimes the cross over between the corporate and the political is unavoidable but we must try to temper the level of intersection between both areas. To this effect my party intends to publish, enact and implement legislation during our time in Government which will shield against the influence of commercial interests in politics, prevent the imperative that created the Moriarty and Mahon tribunals and sever, once and for all, the link with that ugly past in political culture in this country.
As a new Government, tasked with an overwhelming mandate from the people to whom we promised to be open and honest, we need to lead from the front and show people that politicians and civil servants cannot be contaminated by business interests. We cannot afford to brush this aside as successive previous Governments have done. The people's faith in us to reform political system is paramount and we cannot afford to forget that. Already, in the eight or nine weeks this Government has been in office, it has led by example and I hope it will continue as it started in that regard.
We cannot afford to pass this legislation lightly and that is why I intend to address some of the elements of Fianna Fáil's proposals. There is a fundamental need to reform the funding of politics in this country but this Bill simply does not go far enough. It is limited in focus and some of its elements are unworkable. To be specific, it contains a provision to restrict corporate donations from companies, trade unions, societies and building societies but there are no restrictions for donations by partnerships, unincorporated bodies, trusts, sole traders and non-governmental organisations. At very least that is inequitable. There must be more consistency in the way Fianna Fáil approaches corporate donations and the issue in general. The party has flip-flopped consistently on the issue in recent months, adopting no fewer than three different positions since the beginning of this year — one in Government, one during the general election and another now in Opposition as it advocates greater reductions.
The Bill proposes that the Standards in Public Office Commission should audit the accounts of political parties every year. However, this ignores mechanisms already in place between SIPO and parties whereby parties are required to submit audited financial statements in respect of State funding received under Electoral Acts and through the party leader's allowance. The provision in this Bill would undoubtedly lead to a convoluted situation whereby parties would submit audited statements to SIPO while SIPO would be required to carry out a further audit on those same parties. An issue to be considered for the future is duplication. We cannot afford to pass legislation that will add to the confusion and unnecessary costs associated with duplication. Furthermore, Fianna Fáil proposes that candidates who have been unsuccessful in elections should publish their donation statements within 25 days of polling. Successful candidates would have until 31 March of the following year to declare donations. However, the measure proposed by Fianna Fáil does not appear to provide any demonstrable improvement on current arrangements.
An aspect of the Bill I welcome is the proposed extension of the supervision powers of the Standards in Public Office Commission to include independent expenditure in referenda. This is a worthy inclusion in the Bill because specific problems have arisen in the past with regard to the regulation of spending and sources of income of groups campaigning at referenda, for example, the likes of Libertas.
However, the overall objective of this Government, namely, to make the political system more open and transparent for the voter, would not be achieved by this Bill as it currently stands. The fundamental point is that Fianna Fáil has a record of failure in reforming the area of political funding and therefore this latest gesture is a see-through and cynical exercise, particularly given the party's links with big business in the past which were well documented, not least by tribunals.
The Labour Party has a strong record in transparency and our party ideology is underpinned by principles of fairness and equality. That is why we fully support the reform of the political funding structures. That is just one component of our broader campaign to reform the Irish political system. When last in government we enacted both the Standards in Public Office Act and the Freedom of Information Act. In addition, we have championed for the protection of lower-paid workers, the unemployed and the marginalised. Such people have come to expect better from the political system.
There is a saying in west Cork which holds that there is none so pure as the reformed. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle can finish the sentence himself. The Damascene-type conversion of what I was going to call the major Opposition party — perhaps that is an issue to be defined by the Technical Group — is welcome. I hope its conversion to reforming political funding structures will be carried forward in the years ahead. It is good that we are debating this issue in the House. I welcome the U-turn in Fianna Fáil's policy on political donations.
I wish to share time with Deputies John Browne and Barry Cowen. I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate but I will not respond to the last quotation from Deputy McCarthy. It is important to consider the strengths of Irish political life since the foundation of the State and the contribution that many fine parliamentarians and members of local authorities and town councils have made not only to the betterment of their own area and the individuals who sent them to these various elected bodies, but to the country as a whole.
Certain Members opposite have pointed the finger at figures in our party. We could continue point scoring and holding that their party did this and our party did that. However, a vast number of people, almost 1,100 in total, have gone through the Houses of the Oireachtas. These people have made significant contributions at a significant personal cost not only to their financial situation, but in terms of their families. The commitment they have given to be in public life and to serve their country has been remarkable.
That said, the Bill is before the House and, rightly or wrongly, we must clear up the image of politics. Politics has been downgraded and a source of scandal within the Irish mindset in recent years. The Bill was brought forward and promised during the general election campaign. I commend the Fianna Fáil Party for bringing forward this legislation so early. It is important to set the tone in this regard. We acknowledge that mistakes were made in the past when there was a close association between very sizable donations and political parties and Governments.
A great many people elected to the House have never received a donation good, bad or indifferent. Such people have always worked from their own resources and have a sense of pride that they have funded campaigns from their own resources. There are parts of constituencies throughout the country the socioeconomic make-up of which means that they do not have the capacity to make political donations even at a small level.
There is an argument about democracy and how it should be funded. The argument on the other side considers the payment of elected representatives. In recent years, the debate has been about whether Members of the Dáil, Seanad and local authorities were overpaid. We have been working constantly on the question of whether if one pays a person a decent wage to come to the Dáil, should such a person be able to fund some of his or her election campaigns. There is also the question of funding parties through the leaders' allowances.
I welcome the initiatives contained in the Bill and it is important to bring them forward. We are disappointed at the response to the Bill, which has been given careful consideration on our side of the House. We received expert legal advice on various aspects of it. Some Members have cited some flaws in it but there is an amendment process on Committee Stage and these issues can be debated and people can bring forward effective amendments if there are issues or sections within the Bill which need to be strengthened.
It is important to move away from old ideas and the old system in which sizeable corporate donations funded the political system. Points were made with regard to the United States of America, where the first question is how much money a particular candidate can raise when he or she is embarking on an election campaign and then the money follows the candidate. This should never be the case in the Irish Republic. We must aim to ensure there is proper representation here of all sectors and socioeconomic groups. Regardless of who a person is, if one is of an age sufficient to vote, if one has a case to make or a point to put across, if one has campaigned well and one is genuinely serious about being elected, then it should be possible to become elected to the Houses of the Oireachtas or to local bodies. This is what a true republic needs and wants.
We have seen people from across the spectrum elected to this Dáil and it is an important acknowledgement of democracy in any republic that we have had this opportunity. Democracy cannot be and should never be only for the elite, the wealthy or any specific section of society that benefits from funding. The Bill provides the legislation to move away from the ability of the wealthy or well-heeled people or members of society to influence an election or several elections.
There are several points to note in the Bill. There have been several references to companies, societies, trade union movements and so forth and the donations these groups have made. I would have gone further than the proposed limit of €100. I would prefer if it were completely abandoned because it has no future in our society, especially in the coming years as we get out of the recession and given the difficulties experienced by many families throughout the country. There should be no such thing as donations. Parties should have members and a structure like any organisation be it sporting, community and so on. If a person wishes to have an effect in an organisation he or she joins that organisation and moves through it.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill, which is solid. The Members opposite have used the word "hypocrisy". However, this is a serious and genuine effort by Fianna Fáil. If the Members opposite are so concerned about our hypocrisy they should support the Bill tonight when it comes to a vote and if they wish to tease out any issues on Committee Stage, then that is what the Houses of the Oireachtas, the Dáil Chamber and committees are for. I commend the Bill to the House.
Fianna Fáil acknowledged the need for this legislation during the general election campaign and we committed to introducing this Bill. I am pleased that I and my colleagues can endorse and support the Bill. I urge all other parties, including those in government, to join forces considering the universal willingness to dismantle and cease the corporate donations system.
The Taoiseach reneged on such a commitment before but I hope he will not renege on it again. I hope the Taoiseach and his Government will see fit to support the Bill. I have no wish to rehearse the matter and many speakers in our party and in other parties have referred to the abuses of the funding mechanisms which have been in place over the years. As Deputy Moynihan stated, we bring the Bill to the House with the best intentions, goodwill and good faith. Fianna Fáil made this honourable commitment to the public and has now produced this elaborate and all-encompassing Bill, which contains many of the key Moriarty tribunal recommendations. In the course of this debate, some of the Government speakers said how committed they are to the implementation of those recommendations; this Bill offers the opportunity to prove that commitment.
The most significant part of the Bill introduces restrictions on corporate donations from companies, trade unions and societies, as Deputy Moynihan said. To get back to the present Government and where it stands in this regard, it promised legislation to ban corporate donations. It stated that it would not support this Bill but is that a surprise? The coalition also promised to abolish the Seanad within a year and that is not to be the case. The coalition promised political reform by reducing the number of TDs by 20 but based on the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government's remarks last week, that plan has gone out the window. In March Fine Gael said it would reduce the number of Ministers of State to 12; that went out the window. Fine Gael promised to abolish 145 quangos; that has gone out the window — it has created 36 new quangos. The red line issues prior to the election, the dismantling the IMF-EU deal and not putting another cent into the banks, are out the window as well. The one thing it did not promise was that it would take savings from pensioners, which it did yesterday and committed to do for the next four years.
Despite the clever optics and spin and the prolonged honeymoon from the media, this coalition is failing on all the famous red line issues it identified prior to the election. That was during the time of the politics of fear. We remember the carry on, the name calling, with the Tánaiste, Deputy Gilmore, accusing certain people of economic treason. The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, said the country was banjaxed. Now, however, the Government is adhering to the very same banking policy it ridiculed then, buying into the necessary austerity. The new spin in the past week or two is that it has been constrained by a straitjacket. Thank God it has a straitjacket around it because those are the sorts of policies it must pursue.
The only input that has shown any sense of individualism from the Government was yesterday's jobs initiative, despite the fact that it did not meet the target set before the election of 100,000 jobs with a €7 billion investment. Much that was in the plan is welcome, especially for the hotel and leisure industries, which needed a leg up; I acknowledge that and pay tribute to it. Many other parts of the plan are the usual rehash and repackaging, whether it is roads or schools or other work that would take place anyway. They were packaged well and sold to give an impression. We are back to the sort of spin that was deplored. The Government could save itself from having to climb down again by supporting this Bill.
Deputy Ó Cuív referred last night to the policy of Sinn Féin TDs, who donate part of their salary to their party. Is this legal? Is it a political donation? Is it taxed? I do not know but I ask Sinn Féin, in this House or outside, to come out and makes a statement on the matter and make a commitment with the same vigour many of its speakers showed when they attacked us for the perceived hypocrisy — in Sinn Féin's opinion — of us bringing forward a Bill of this nature.
I commend the Bill to the House and ask for wholehearted support for it.
I welcome this Bill. Fianna Fáil promised this legislation before the last general election and during the general election. Deputy Micheál Martin made the commitment after the election that he would introduce this Bill. I have been a long time in the House and I have heard a great deal of talk about political donations down the years and the reform of this House but nothing ever happened; there was a great deal of hot air.
Tribunals have cost a fortune, making millionaires of legal eagles. The media-fuelled perception of the public representatives is that they were all on the take. Every politician, TD, Senator or councillor, was getting bagfuls of money for favours granted. We heard all the talk about the tents in Galway and Punchestown and the Fine Gael golf classics in the K Club. All of these were highlighted for many years. Like in every organisation, there will always be some rotten apples in the barrel, but 99% of politicians are decent, honourable people who are there to serve the people and do their best for the community. That is what communities want, they want their politicians to be available to help them and to support them. As Deputy Michael Moynihan said, there were plenty of politicians elected at the general election from all shades of the community because the people who voted for them wanted someone who reflects their views and ideals.
I fought the recent general election and received some contributions, which were acknowledged and receipts were issued. They will be sent to the relevant authorities whenever necessary, and I am sure other politicians did the same. That is not to say we were on the take or being bought off. Democracy is an important system and it is important we continue to have a democratic process here. Political parties and individuals who want to represent this country in a democratic fashion should be able to receive contributions provided they are meeting the regulations and acting in a transparent manner.
We hear much talk about reform of the political system. Fine Gael spoke of reducing the number of TDs by 20, although the number suggested has since fallen to 16. By the next general election there will probably be no reduction in TDs because the commission set up to look at the issue will recommend the retention of thestatus quo.
This House needs a fundamental change, an issue I have raised on several occasions in my political career. In many ways, it is irrelevant to what is happening in the community. I am amused most mornings when people raise matters of urgent national importance with the Ceann Comhairle. They read out a statement and the Ceann Comhairle says that having considered the matter seriously, it is deemed not to be urgent, even though the House could be going down the river. No matter what the issue raised in the Dáil, it is very seldom the Ceann Comhairle will say a matter is urgent and can be debated. That is where we must look at reform.
I fought the election in Wexford, as did Deputy Wallace. I will not speak for Deputy Wallace, who had lovely, shiny pink posters that people must have bought into, because he got 13,500 votes. I was out-postered four to one and I had a fair number of posters.
I was out-vanned, so to speak, four to one and I was out-manoeuvred in every way possible by the other major political parties, yet I stayed within the financial limits for a five seat constituency. This is an area which is wide open to abuse. A candidate could say his or her posters had been erected prior to the calling of the election, even though that is illegal. He or she could say that the flyers were bought before the election. The issue of expenditure at a general election needs to be re-examined. Expenses can be counted properly. I have great faith in the political system, however, and in the public representatives of this country, the majority of whom are not in it to make money or to line their pockets but to represent the people who elected them to Dáil Éireann.
This Private Members' Bill deserves careful consideration. It implements key recommendations of the Moriarty tribunal relating to political funding. It proposes to cut donation limits, introduce an effective ban on corporate donations and provide for an annual audit of all income paid to political parties from public or private sources. The Bill effectively ends corporate donations and dramatically increases the level of transparency in political funding and expenditure. I doubt if the Government will follow through on its commitment but this Bill will afford the opportunity to consider a number of other issues relating to the second report of the Moriarty tribunal. Deputies on all sides of the House, including newly elected Deputies, have had an opportunity to contribute. I noted some excellent contributions, including views on how political funding should be dealt with. I do not think any one party has a monopoly on knowing how to deal with the issue of political donations, but this Bill goes some of the way in dealing with the issue in an open and transparent way.
The public want politicians and political parties to be open about how they are funded. This has not been done in the past. Some political parties have not been open about the amount of funding they receive during a given year, the identity of the donors or how it is spent. This Bill gives parties an opportunity to state exactly where they stand on political donations. Contributions to political parties from individuals should still remain, however, because otherwise the taxpayer will be required to fund the democratic system fully and I do not think taxpayers would wish us to introduce such a measure. All political parties will have to admit they will depend on individual contributions if they are to survive. I hope the Government will support this Bill, although from my experience on both sides of the House, I know this will not happen as the Government will regard its own legislation as better than a Bill introduced by any party in Opposition. The Attorney General will always find some flaws, real or imagined, to stop such legislation. This Bill is worthy of consideration and support and, more important, it has opened up the debate on political donations. I ask all sides of the House to support the Fianna Fáil Bill.
In concluding the contributions from the Government side, I restate the view that this Fianna Fáil Private Members' Bill includes some very worthwhile proposals. Some of the measures in it are included in the programme for Government and they will be implemented. However, the Bill is too narrow in scope and it lacks ambition. It contains a number of technical flaws that make it unworkable. The Government will not support the Bill but will publish draft legislation in the coming weeks which will reform political funding in a more comprehensive and joined-up manner.
It is striking to hear in the contributions to the debate the relative unanimity among Members on all sides that the regulation of political donations needs to be significantly changed. Most Deputies have referred to the Moriarty tribunal recommendations while many speakers, including Deputy Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil and Deputy Jonathan O'Brien of Sinn Féin, have drawn upon recommendations made by independent bodies, including the Standards in Public Office Commission, the Council of Europe group of states against corruption, known as GRECO, and Transparency International. It is clear from the extensive and detailed range of recommendations made by these independent bodies and by others that there is no shortage of analysis on the shortcomings in Ireland's arrangements for the funding of politics. The one aspect that has been lacking up to now has been a willingness to act.
This failure to act is one reason I am baffled by the apparent urgency the party opposite now attaches to this issue. In a generous interpretation it could be regarded as the zeal of the convert. There was ample opportunity in the past to implement the necessary reform measures but this was not taken. The programme for Government published by the previous Administration in the summer of 2007, committed to addressing the issue of corporate donations to political parties. If Fianna Fáil had acted then, this could be a different debate now and the mood of widespread public cynicism and mistrust which, unfortunately, accompanies this issue might not be as bad. Having come through a recent general election campaign, we are all aware of what is now expected of us. We need a system of political funding that inspires public confidence and which needs to be more transparent. Thankfully, we now have a Government which will act on those wishes and views of the public.
In responding to this debate on behalf of the Government, I also note concerns raised by some speakers, especially Deputy Ó Cuív, regarding spending by organisations during referendum campaigns. The Government agrees that change is needed in the regulation of spending and donations at referenda. The provision in the Fianna Fáil Bill, however, amounting to a relatively minor amendment in the definition of what constitutes a third party at a referendum, would appear to be wholly insufficient to achieve anything of substance.
I also note the contributions of Deputy Niall Collins, Deputy Thomas Pringle and others who have spoken. While the Government does not support the Fianna Fáil Bill, this side of the House looks forward to the continued input of Members in the implementation of the programme for Government. We are confident in our ability to bring about change, but we also know that we do not have a monopoly on wisdom or good ideas. However, the Government intends to overhaul radically how Irish politics and government work. The electoral (amendment) Bill is being drafted for implementation during the current Dáil session. As the Government legislation programme states, this Bill will amend the terms of reference of a constituency commission in a way that will provide for a report on Dáil constituencies to be made on the basis of a reduced number of Deputies in Dáil Éireann. The Bill will also reduce the spending limits for presidential elections and legislate for every Dáil by-election to be held within six months of the vacancy arising. Separately, the electoral (amendment) (political funding) Bill 2011, which is to be published during the current Dáil session, will amend the Electoral Acts and implement the political funding commitments set out in the programme for Government. The electoral commission Bill, which will be enacted during the lifetime of this Dáil, is also on the Government legislative programme.
The Fianna Fáil legislation that is before the House is a relevant input into the national debate on the role of politics and on how politics should be supported and funded. However, the Bill lacks conviction, is weak on detail and, in some respects, cannot be seen as credible. It appears to address some of the recommendations in the report of the Moriarty tribunal, albeit in a relatively piecemeal way and with a paucity of joined-up thinking. Provisions similar to those contained in the programme for Government have been included in the Fianna Fáil Bill. I refer particularly to those reducing donation limits and the threshold for their declaration. The provisions dealing with third party involvement in referendum campaigns are relatively limited and, in their present form, are unlikely to have a significant positive effect.
The principal measure in the Bill — that restricting corporate donations — does not appear to have been fully thought through. The loopholes in it would allow a number of corporate-type bodies to continue to make political donations. The Government has a different way of doing things. We believe our way is far more comprehensive and considered. We are offering a joined-up approach to reform. We aim to address how our political institutions work. In many cases, they do not work to their full potential. We will reform political funding, election spending and electoral administration. Our legislation will match the expectations of the Irish people for action with legislation and policy measures that will work. Accordingly, on behalf of the Government, I oppose this Bill.
Although I am a new Deputy, I have followed the work of the Dáil closely over a number of years. One of the biggest problems when debating legislation is the tendency of many Deputies to fail to engage with the detailed contents of the Bill before the House. Even though no benefit can be gained from being partisan because the media ignores 95% of all debates, too many Members seek to prioritise partisan attacks ahead of more constructive exchanges. A significant extension in the amount of time for which the House sits has been proposed, but it is clear that additional time will not deliver an improvement if the approach to debate is not changed.
I acknowledge those Deputies who took the time to look closely at the comprehensive proposals in this Bill. I remind those who preferred to make cheap points that the next election is probably over four years away. If we cannot be constructive in these early weeks of the new Dáil, it does not bode well for the rest of the term. In light of the contents of the Moriarty report and the histories of many of the parties represented in this Dáil, the lack of self-reflection in most of the contributions was striking. We are all politicians. We represent different local and party interests. Robust exchanges are part and parcel of what we do. The dismissal of a proposal simply because it comes from an opponent is the type of politics that was supposed to have ended when the people cast their votes on 25 February last.
This constructive Bill deals comprehensively with the core issue of how political funding is handled. It operates within the boundaries of what is constitutionally possible at this time. In effect, it bans corporate donations. A fuller ban will be possible if the constitutional amendment we published yesterday is enacted. The legislation is based on the principle that elections should be decided and funded directly by those entitled to vote and no one else. It goes much further by introducing greater transparency to all aspects of our political work. It responds in detail to the key recommendations of the Moriarty report.
I wish to refer to the two tribunals that were established to investigate these matters. One of them was ongoing until a couple of months ago and the other has been ongoing since 1997. I am particularly concerned about the cost of the two tribunals. The basis and rationale for their establishment was the fact that the making of donations within our political system had not been properly regulated over the years. The last 14 years of investigations, which resulted from the lack of regulation of our political system, did great damage to the political fabric of this country. In addition, they exposed the damage that was done to Irish politics over many years by a minority of people. The Moriarty tribunal cost more than €100 million and the Mahon tribunal is set to cost more than €250 million. Therefore, more than €350 million has been spent on two tribunals that have investigated what went on in politics as a consequence of the failure to address certain issues and ensure this type of legislation was in place before now.
Politics has been funded by the State for a number of years now. State funding was first made available at around the time of the establishment of the Moriarty tribunal. The most recent figures for State funding of political parties show that some €5.5 million was provided to political parties under the Electoral Acts. The figures in question, which relate to 2009, have been provided by the Standards in Public Office Commission. A further €8 million was provided for the funding of politics through the party leaders' allowances. Therefore, a total of €13.5 million was made available by the State in 2009 to fund party politics. The failure of the State in previous years to get involved in and take a serious attitude to the funding of politics led to the establishment of two tribunals that are to cost us €350 million. That money would have funded the political system for many of the years in which the damaging activities that the Moriarty and Mahon tribunals were established to investigate took place.
The Bill before the House is absolutely key and important. It is not possible to introduce an outright ban on corporate donations until the referendum on the matter later this year. This legislation proposes to bring greater transparency to the way in which corporate donations are made. It will make it significantly more difficult for donations to be made. I will sum up some of its key proposals. All corporate donations of more than €100 will have to be declared within 14 days, authorised by a general meeting and registered with the Standards in Public Offices Commission. Any donation by a company or trade union that exceeds €100 will be difficult to make and will have to be extremely transparent. The company or trade union will have to apply to the commission to be registered as a "donating company" or "donating trade union". It will have to give the commission full details of the organisation, membership and shareholding of the company or trade union. It will be required to have secured support for the donation through a vote of its members or a general meeting. If a donation is subsequently made — obviously, a donation to a political party could not exceed €2,500 — the Bill will require that any donation of more than €100 be published in the accounts of the company or trade union.
The company or trade union will be required to publish in its accounts details of any Government contracts worth more than €1,000 into which it entered, or intended to enter, at the time of the making of the donation. This builds on another important recommendation in the second report of the Moriarty tribunal, which is that donors should be obliged to identify any relevant financial, commercial or other interests if their donations exceed a certain threshold. This includes an obligation to identify any Government contracts or any involvement in procurement processes. This requirement is not limited to the company but includes its directors, shadow directors or significant shareholders. Failure to comply with these requirements will be a criminal offence, punishable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or a fine not exceeding €5,000.
Another key change in the Bill is the reduction in the maximum allowable individual donation to political parties and third parties from €6,348 to €2,500, with the level at which these must be publicly declared to fall from €5,078 to €1,000. It also reduces the maximum allowable donation to a candidate from €2,539 to €1,000 in any one year, with the level at which these must be publicly declared reduced from €634 to €500. While a donation above €1,000 for political parties and a donation above €500 for an individual candidate must be declared, any donation above €100 from a company, trade union, society or building society must also be declared.
The Bill also introduces an amendment to section 23A of the Electoral Act 1997. The amendment is based upon one of the recommendations in the Moriarty report on political funding which identified a problem where one donor makes a series of donations, all of which are under the declarable threshold. The amendment provides that where a donor makes a donation in the same year to two or more persons of the same party, these would be treated as one donation to a political party or third party. As a result, the amendment ensures that not more than €2,500 per annum could be donated by one donor.
Another key recommendation of the second Moriarty report regarding political funding was that political donations should be disclosed in a reasonable timeframe following an election. For this reason, the Bill requires the publication of donation statements within 25 days of polling. Currently, the timeframe is 58 days for unsuccessful candidates and 31 March of the following year for successful candidates.
The Bill also provides that the Standards in Public Office Commission will audit the accounts of political parties each year, with the income and expenditure account, balance sheet and donations statement to be published.
The contribution made by the Minister of State, Deputy Penrose, last night on behalf of the Government was surprising. At times it sounded as if it had been written by two separate people. On the one hand, the Minister of State's speech was generous and constructive in recognising the quality of the Bill and the collective interest in seeing its objectives realised. He also outlined in detail the major programme of reform in this area which was enacted in the past 14 years. I thank the Minister of State for his statement that this legislation has meant that many of the core abuses pointed to in tribunal reports could no longer take place. For example, the tour of the country made by staff of ESAT who personally visited constituency fund-raisers for Cabinet Ministers in 1995 could not have been kept secret if the current law had been in operation. In addition, the issues concerning the Telenor donation which ended up in an offshore account could not have arisen under the legislation introduced by the previous Government.
On the other hand, the Minister of State was sent in to the Chamber to perform the role of justifying the fact that the massed ranks on the Government benches will be sent in tonight to vote down the Bill and delay the achievement of its objectives. To do this, he cited a list of minor issues to which he attached inflated importance. His point concerning other types of corporate entities which should be covered could be addressed by a Committee Stage amendment, as could other points he made regarding definitions. Some of the most important parts of the existing electoral Acts are short and simple sections and it is not true that definitional issues cannot be addressed on Committee Stage.
The Taoiseach was wrong today and yesterday in claiming that the Fianna Fáil Party had indicated that the Bill was flawed when we introduced it. We did nothing of the sort. We indicated that we expected it to be amended in committee. This is the first time an entirely new Bill, as opposed to legislation published in the previous Dáil, has been dealt with by the 31st Dáil. Perhaps Deputies have forgotten that nearly all legislation can be amended extensively in committee. One of the Standing Orders requires Ministers to point to areas on which they anticipate amendments will be introduced. To argue against the Bill on the basis that it cannot be enacted exactly in its original form is to ignore the reality of the legislative process.
On those occasions where a Private Members' Bill has been enacted, major amendments have been made on Committee Stage. I spoke earlier today to Senator Feargal Quinn who is making great efforts to pass legislation in the Upper House to facilitate early payment of subcontractors. If the Senator's legislation is passed, it will be the first time in 40 years that a Private Member's Bill originating in the Seanad will have been enacted. This is a terrible indictment of the political system and one which makes it difficult for any party to pour cold water on a Bill which tries to address this problem. None of the parties in the House can take the high moral ground on the issue of having an Oireachtas which is open and allows all Members to participate.
The Minister of State, Deputy Penrose, also criticised the Bill for not being sufficiently comprehensive. In doing so, he listed the Government's entire political reform agenda while omitting to mention that it is not proposed anywhere in its agenda to deal with political funding legislation. All parties support the establishment of an electoral commission, work on which has been under way for some time. There are, however, no proposals to enact legislation in this regard in the coming months.
The Government has not pointed to a single area which is omitted or a single difficulty with drafting which cannot be dealt with in committee. This point relates to the different proposals contained in the speeches of Sinn Féin Deputies and members of the Technical Group. Having listed the major reforms enacted in the past 14 years, the Minister of State unfortunately fell back on the already tired line that my party was in power for 14 years. He knows full well that a Bill would have been enacted by now if the Dáil had been sitting in February. He is also aware that the Bill before us and the constitutional amendment represent the first time any party has ever put forward a detailed proposal to end corporate donations.
I have been a Deputy for two months and I am proud to have my name attached to this Bill. The Minister of State, Deputy Penrose, has been a Member of the House for nearly 20 years and many other Members have been here a good deal longer. Unless they believe they did not have any responsibility for legislation during their time in the House, they should explain the reason they failed to introduce a ban on corporate donations, either in government or opposition.
To claim that the Bill lacks "vision, credibility and detail" is untrue. Ministers have asked Deputies to vote down the Bill on the basis that they will introduce a measure in this area shortly. Where similar circumstances arose in the past, Governments have, as a statement of good will, declined to vote down Bills and instead attached a qualification to the vote. Under this procedure, a date is set for the Bill to proceed to committee if the Government fails to fulfil its commitment. For example, a Fianna Fáil disability access Bill became law because the rainbow Government failed to enact promised legislation in time. Availing of this procedure would have been a more convincing response to the Bill than the over the top opposition we have heard.
The net effect of voting down the Bill tonight is that we will have to wait longer for a ban on corporate donations and the other reform measures proposed in the legislation. The Government's measure will emerge at some point in the next month. Under the rules of the Dáil and Seanad and other formal requirements, the legislation will not be in operation during the period when candidates are raising money for the presidential election. Perhaps it is the intention of Fine Gael and the Labour Party to have one last visit to the trough before the ban comes into effect.
This is a good and comprehensive Bill which fulfils my party's election promise to bring this matter to a vote early in the new Dáil. Its date puts off the fulfilment of the Government's promise. I commend it to the House and recommend its adoption.
- Browne, John.
- Calleary, Dara.
- Colreavy, Michael.
- Cowen, Barry.
- Crowe, Seán.
- Doherty, Pearse.
- Donnelly, Stephen.
- Dooley, Timmy.
- Flanagan, Luke ‘Ming’.
- Fleming, Sean.
- Healy, Seamus.
- Kelleher, Billy.
- Kirk, Seamus.
- Kitt, Michael P.
- Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
- McConalogue, Charlie.
- McDonald, Mary Lou.
- McGrath, Finian.
- McGrath, Mattie.
- McGrath, Michael.
- McGuinness, John.
- McLellan, Sandra.
- Martin, Micheál.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Murphy, Catherine.
- Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
- Ó Cuív, Éamon.
- Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
- Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
- O’Brien, Jonathan.
- O’Dea, Willie.
- Pringle, Thomas.
- Ross, Shane.
- Smith, Brendan.
- Tóibín, Peadar.
- Troy, Robert.
- Wallace, Mick.
- Barry, Tom.
- Breen, Pat.
- Broughan, Thomas P.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Butler, Ray.
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- Carey, Joe.
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- Gilmore, Eamon.
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- Hannigan, Dominic.
- Harrington, Noel.
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- Howlin, Brendan.
- Humphreys, Heather.
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- McFadden, Nicky.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- McHugh, Joe.
- McLoughlin, Tony.
- McNamara, Michael.
- Mitchell, Olivia.
- Mitchell O’Connor, Mary.
- Mulherin, Michelle.
- Murphy, Dara.
- Murphy, Eoghan.
- Nash, Gerald.
- Naughten, Denis.
- Neville, Dan.
- Nolan, Derek.
- Noonan, Michael.
- Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
- O’Donnell, Kieran.
- O’Donovan, Patrick.
- O’Dowd, Fergus.
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- O’Reilly, Joe.
- O’Sullivan, Maureen.
- Penrose, Willie.
- Perry, John.
- Phelan, Ann.
- Phelan, John Paul.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Reilly, James.
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- Shortall, Róisín.
- Spring, Arthur.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Stanton, David.
- Timmins, Billy.
- Tuffy, Joanna.
- Twomey, Liam.
- Varadkar, Leo.
- Wall, Jack.
- Walsh, Brian.
- White, Alex.