Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, line 23, to delete "2011" and substitute "2012".

This is a technical amendment to ensure the collective citation of the Electoral Acts in the Bill is correct.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 2 in the name of Deputy Catherine Murphy is deemed out of order on the basis of it being outside the scope of the Bill.

Amendment No. 2 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 6, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:

"PART 2

AMENDMENT OF ELECTORAL ACT 1992

3.—Section 25 (amended by section 11 of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1992 is amended—

(a) in subsection (7)—

(i) by substituting the following paragraphs for paragraphs (f) and (g):

"(f) where the party is registered as organised to contest elections in a specified part of the State, a reference to that fact and to the part of the State concerned,

(g) the name of any political group in accordance with subsection (8), and",

and

(ii) by inserting the following new paragraph after paragraph (g):

"(h) the name and address of each accounting unit of the political party and the name and address of the responsible person or persons of the accounting unit.",

and

(b) by inserting the following new subsection after subsection (9):

"(10) In this section and section 25A 'accounting unit' and 'responsible person' have the same meaning as they have in section 22 of the Electoral Act 1997.".".

Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 seek to make the organisation and structure of political parties more transparent by requiring the information on what are called the accounting units of parties, that is, the local branches, to be included in the register of political parties. This information will then be made publicly available.

I am bringing forward 33 amendments, 31 of which address certain recommendations of the Mahon tribunal in regard to the financing of politics. This is a sign of the Government's commitment to respond robustly and swiftly to the uncomfortable truths contained in that report. I indicated in the House on 27 March that my Department was reviewing the recommendations made in the tribunal report with a view to facilitating early Government consideration of the need to bring forward amendments to this Bill. Although anxious to ensure the legislation would be enacted as soon as possible, I undertook to examine those recommendations that were relevant to the Bill and amenable to being implemented by way of amendment. The amendments I am presenting today represent the outcome of that consideration.

The proposals I have made will make it an offence to give a political donation on behalf of another person without informing the recipient of the identity of the donor. Donation declaration statements will have to include additional information on the sources of donations and how they were received and recorded by the recipient. I propose to reduce the threshold for anonymous donations from IR£100 to €100. Consequent to this amendment, the threshold will be reduced to €100 for opening a political donations account for the registration of a third party with the Standards in Public Office Commission and in the definitions of political party accounting units and third parties. Individual cash donations in excess of €200 will be banned. We will get to all of these amendments in due course.

Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 seek to address the following recommendation of the Mahon tribunal: "Political parties should be required to supply details of their organisational structure, including their subsidiary organisations and branches, as a condition of registration under the Electoral Act 1992". They will ensure there is greater transparency in regard to the organisational structure of political parties.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 6, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:

4.—Section 25A (inserted by section 11 of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1992 is amended by inserting the following new subsection after subsection (4):

"(4A) (a) when replying to an inquiry under subsection (4) the officer of the party shall provide the Registrar with the name and address of each accounting unit of the political party and the name and address of the responsible person or persons of the accounting unit, including any changes that have occurred during the period from when the particulars were last provided to the Registrar,

(b) the Registrar shall enter the particulars provided under paragraph (a) in the Register.".".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 6, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

"5.—Section 17(1)(b) (as inserted by section 50(c) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001) of the Act of 1997 is amended by substituting "by all candidates" for "by candidates of all qualified parties".".

There are four streams of funding for politicians and political life in this country. First, all Members of the Dáil and the Seanad receive an equal staffing allocation. The second is the party leader's allowance which is paid in respect of every Member, except the Ceann Comhairle, although paid in a different manner to different Deputies. The third is the Oireachtas staffing allowance paid to all Members other than Independents. The fourth is the party funding under the Electoral Acts, for which any party receiving more than 2% of first preference votes in the preceding general election is eligible. In the last election the citizens of Ireland chose to elect a sizeable number of Independent Deputies. In fact, 17% of the membership of the House comprises Deputies not eligible for this funding. The only groupings which qualify are the four large parties in the Dáil, namely, Fine Gael, the Labour Party, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

What is happening is that 100% of the funding in this allocation goes to Members who represent only 83% of the popular mandate. There is an opportunity to show respect for the wishes of the electorate by moving to address this anomaly. If the 17% of funding which corresponds to the Independent representation in the House was returned to the Exchequer, it would amount to some €800,000 per annum, or more than €4 million in the lifetime of the Dáil. It is unacceptable that the parties should benefit disproportionately from this funding in a manner which ignores the substantial mandate of Independent Deputies.

Another example of the failure to reflect the wishes of the electorate is the way in which the secretariat is provided for the party political system. Even though the Technical Group is a recognised grouping in the House, the Standing Orders of the Dáil make no provision for a secretariat to facilitate Members in their parliamentary functions. Apart from not being provided with staff, we are not even given a computer or a telephone. It is a very unfair system and an insult not only to Independent Members but also to the mandate they have received from the electorate.

To clarify, I am not arguing for the withdrawal of funding for political parties. On the contrary, I fully accept the valuable role they play in political life. As I said on Committee Stage, I have been a member of no less than three political parties. I did not intend for that to happen, but that is the way it worked out.

The Deputy might well change her current status in due course. She has a track record.

I cannot say what I might do in future. As I said, I accept that political parties have their place. Equally, however, there should be respect for Deputies who are not members of parties. Since the establishment of the State, Ireland has had a history of electing significant numbers of Independents. The funding to which I am referring was placed on a formalised footing in 1938 by de Valera's Government. Independent representation has always been a feature of the House to a greater or lesser degree. What I am proposing is that the portion of this funding which corresponds to the percentage of Independent representation in the House should not go into the pot for the parties to divide among themselves.

The total amount should be discounted by the 17% mandate given to Independents at the last general election.

On Committee Stage, the argument we heard was that political parties get millions of euros extra funding because they have special duties and special things to do that Independent Deputies do not have to do. I wonder what they are if we think about what we all contribute to parliamentary democracy. My office comes up with policy, has plenty of administration, conducts local meetings - we held three public meetings on the referendum in Wicklow - and deals with the media. I am curious as to what all these special duties parties' have. When I compare what I do and what my team and office do here and in Wicklow, it is not apparent to me that there are millions of euro extra things Deputy Micheál Martin does as leader of Fianna Fáil, although I am sure there are some. I do not hold a convention during the year attended by lots of people but the argument that there are lots of things parties must do, such as devise policy, administration, hold local meetings and local administration which I, as an Independent Deputy do not have to do, does not stack up.

Like Deputy Murphy, I accept the argument for funding for political parties. I am in no way against political parties. I am an Independent Deputy because I decided to run for election about six weeks before the general election, and maybe none of the parties would have had me anyway. A situation where Deputy Micheál Martin gets more than four times the funding per Fianna Fáil Deputy than I get sounds imbalanced. Maybe it is the case that every single Fianna Fáil Deputy creates at least four times more value in our democracy than I do. I do not think that is true but they get more than four times more money.

The second argument is that the Technical Group has no secretariat. As the Minister knows, the parties get 0.8 whole-time equivalents per Deputy but we do not get any. Even if we did not take any additional money and even if the funding did not follow the Deputy, it is reasonable to say that, as a group, we can be most effective with some of the resources parties have, such as the ability to draft legislation, to have amendments reviewed by legal expertise and so on. There is something to that.

I would like a system whereby political funding followed the Deputy, as the Deputy is the person invested with the democratic mandate, and if Deputies want to form a party and pool their money, that is fine. That is what I would advocate for. Failing that, I would certainly advocate for some secretariat support for a group like the Technical Group in order for it to be as effective as possible and failing that, I would point to Deputy Murphy's final point. Even if we want to continue a situation where Fianna Fáil gets 4.3 times the funding per Deputy the Independents get and we think that is reasonable and we think it is reasonable that the second largest Opposition group does not get any secretariat support, which everybody else gets, at least save the rest of the money. Currently, as Deputy Murphy pointed out, the extra money does not go back to the Exchequer but the parties get more because there is an unusual number of Independent Deputies. Deputy Murphy's amendment talks to that quite well. I do not imagine we will win this but for future consideration, I would appreciate it if the Minister would take those points on board.

It is important to note that political parties are different from Independents. Independents have a fair bit of financial support already through various other sources which members of political parties do not have. We give that money to ensure we have a strong organisation and press and communications system in place. I do not expect Deputy Murphy or Deputy Donnelly to have an apparatus in place which would support 35,000 members of a national organisation. That is what the Fine Gael Party must support. Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party must also support organisations. Political parties have a lot of responsibility to their membership. There is a lot more to supporting a political structure than being an individual.

If we are to have a strong and cohesive parliamentary democracy and political system, it must be supported, otherwise we will have a collection of 166 Independents. We would probably have elections on a very regular basis, which may suit some people, but it would not provide any stability or confidence to the country if we could not show that we could generate stability and confidence between political parties to have a programme for Government. The same would apply to the Opposition in terms of research, press and communications and managing the structure of a political party, which is a fairly mammoth task.

Obviously, people who have not been involved in political parties would not understand that. Deputy Murphy, who was part of a political party in the past, should understand that there are a lot of responsibilities in terms of supporting the membership of a national organisation which she does not have to support currently. She gets a considerable amount of resources from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform which we must submit to our political parties for the purpose of meeting our obligations, structures and staffing, which she does not have to do.

The balance is between whether one supports the political parties in the way they come together as a cohesive unit, albeit there will be differences within that unit in terms of policy propositions. However, once they are decided, we must have the stability to follow them through. Therefore, I reject the amendment.

The fact so many Independents were elected in the last general election is a reflection of the citizens' choice and that cannot be ignored. The words "political party" are not mentioned in the Constitution. Political parties are to all intents and purposes private clubs focused on the political system. Essentially, the resources provided to the Independents are provided to the political parties but to a much greater extent. The leaders' allowance is provided to the party leader. One would have to question how much power the backbencher has. Many Deputies have said to me and to others that they did not realise funding was provided by the Deputy to the party leader. Much of this political funding is to provide a press office, which is there to maintain the situation.

Parties produce a manifesto at election time but a constant bone of contention among the electorate is that many of the things in those manifestos are pious aspirations. All of the policy which finds its way into the main document of the political party - people vote on what is presented to them - does not appear in the decisions made.

I will press the amendment as its acceptance would make a meaningful difference and have the effect of saving the Exchequer a substantial amount of money.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 11; Níl, 101.

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Flanagan, Luke 'Ming'.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Nulty, Patrick.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Catherine Murphy and Maureen O'Sullivan; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 6, 8, 12, 13, 21, 22, 26, 27, 30, 37, 39 and 40 are related. Amendment No. 31 is an alternative to amendment No. 30. They will all be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 7, to delete lines 1 to 11 and substitute the following:

“(b) in paragraph (aa) (inserted by section 49(b)(ii) of the Act of 2001) by—

(i) substituting “€100” for “£100” in the definition of “accounting unit”,

(ii) substituting “€100” for “£100” in the definition of “third party”, and

(iii) inserting the following definitions:

“ ‘company’ means a company established under the Companies Acts;

‘corporate donor’ means—

(i) a body corporate,

(ii) an unincorporated body of persons, or

(iii) a trust,

which makes a donation, and for the purpose of this definition a body corporate and any subsidiary thereof shall be deemed to be one person;”.”.

This group of amendments will have the effect of reducing the threshold for receipt of anonymous donations to €100, the threshold for opening a political donations account to €100 and to €100 the threshold whereby a third party is recognised as such and must be registered. A similar donation threshold of €100 will also apply in the definition of "accounting unit" for a political party. Each of the amendments flows from the recommendations of the Mahon tribunal regarding the treatment of anonymous donations. The tribunal recommended that anonymous donations of more than €55 to electoral candidates or elected representatives, or of more than €175 to political parties be banned. Currently all anonymous donations of more than €126.97 are banned. I agree with the principle behind the tribunal's recommendation but accepting the proposal would mean that the anonymous donation threshold for parties would increase, while the threshold for individuals would decrease. As I do not favour increasing the threshold for parties, a reasonable way of implementing this recommendation is by reducing the threshold for all anonymous donations to €100.

Amendment No. 31, tabled by Deputy Brian Stanley on behalf of Sinn Féin, is being discussed with this group because it seeks to amend the same section of the Bill as Government amendment No. 30, albeit for a different purpose. The Deputy's amendment is one of seven Sinn Féin amendments which seek to remove from the Bill the provisions dealing with corporate donations. The purpose of the amendments is to ban corporate donations altogether, but, as I explained on Second Stage, this is not constitutionally feasible. I will be opposing the amendment for this reason.

There should, of course, be full transparency and accountability when it comes to any type of donation.

With regard to the specifics of anonymous donations, in the current economic climate I do not imagine there are too many people in the country willing to donate to any individual politician or group anonymously. People would prefer for it to be known that they were giving funds provided they are in a position to do so.

I have one thing to say about the major political parties in respect of funding. They are unanimous about one thing when it comes to political funding for parties. They must admit that they have a great advantage over the Independent candidates in this House and the Independent councillors throughout the country. When it comes to election time Independents must fund and run their campaigns entirely on their own. In recent years, given the increasing cost of advertising and everything that goes with a campaign, including posters and so on, considerable expenditure is needed to run a successful election campaign. The major political parties are in agreement on one thing, that is, they would like to squeeze out the Independents if they could. Thankfully, the people in the various constituencies see the merit in holding on to Independents. Whether that will continue to be the case in future given the changes in the boundaries is a different tale.

Ultimately, behind all the moves under way throughout the country there is a major move to try to squeeze out and put down Independents because the political parties do not want Independents to be here. Ultimately, when it comes to funding, people should have the right to help out at election time by making donations, provided that it is all accounted for and that at the end of the election the candidate publicly discloses how much he got and where it came from. There is nothing wrong with that.

The political parties have so many other ways of fund-raising that Independents cannot avail of. Other advantages arise from being a member of a political party. Considering the way the whole thing is weighed up, it is a wonder that Independents are surviving, but thank God they are. I hope there will always be Independents in the House. They have served the country and the county councils well throughout the years and I hope they will continue to be here in the years ahead, in spite of what others in political parties would prefer.

My points are along the same lines. I am surprised by what the Minister has said. He maintains that Constitution would not allow him to ban all corporate donations or to go below a figure of €100, if I understood correctly when he explained it on an earlier Stage. I agree that it is most difficult for Independents. The public and the media should examine this issue. There should be a fully transparent system and a certain amount should go for each vote collected. Some allowance should be made to all parties and then we would have a level playing field based on votes garnered at an election. That would cut out the need for funding altogether. Naturally that would not suit the larger parties.

Fine Gael has been fund-raising wholesale since and before it came into government. The Minister was leading the charge with all the various events including horse racing events and the tents. Fine Gael attacked the last Government for the Galway races tent but those in the party have a fair number of tents themselves and a fair amount of money. A good deal has been raised since Fine Gael came to government in spite of all the promises it made about transparency and so on.

Fine Gael is treating the Labour Party as the mudguard or the hind tit - pardon the expression - of this coalition. The fund-raising is under way and the big business cabals are still here. We have read in the newspapers of certain senior people in Fine Gael who got vast sums of money in soft loans on an interest only basis. Other Fine Gael Deputies bought properties off them and this sticks in the craw of the electorate. The old big Blueshirt regime is still going on.

This is the same way the Minister treated people with the septic tank charge. The ideas was to charge the little people, stand on them and then kick them out of the way because those in Fine Gael were the big people or the landed gentry as they used to be called. That will not wash with the public and certainly it does not wash with me on behalf of the public in my constituency. Deputy Healy-Rae pointed out that the so-called independent gerrymandering of the constituencies is an effort to get rid of Independents. What is taking place in my county is outrageous. Two county councils which have been in place for almost two centuries are being abandoned and then forced together.

What does this have to do with the amendment?

If the cap fits the Minister can wear it. I am speaking to the amendment.

He is in his arm.

The Minister might not like it but I will say it anyway. It is the same with the constituency. While Minister is pumping money into Waterford city, part of it is in County Kilkenny.

The Deputy should speak to the amendment.

The carry-on of this Minister is flagrantly wrong and despicable. He thinks he can get away with it but there will be a day of reckoning and it will come soon.

I do not have to respond to Deputy McGrath because what he said had nothing to do with the amendment.

It is because he cannot.

Deputy Healy-Rae should note that there are no difficulties in respect of matters he raised today. We dealt with them while discussing the previous amendment.

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 7, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

“(c) members of the Oireachtas and members of the European Parliament may donate up to €6,357 to their own party.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 7, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

6.—Section 23 (amended by section 49(c) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1997 is amended in subsection (1) by substituting “€100” for “£100”.”.

Amendment put and declared carried.

Amendments Nos. 9, 24 and 34 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 7, to delete lines 12 to 15 and substitute the following:

6.—Section 23A (inserted by section 49(d) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1997 is amended by substituting the following subsection for subsection (1):

“(1) Without prejudice to subsection (2), none of the following persons, namely—

(a) a member of either House of the Oireachtas,

(b) a member of the European Parliament,

(c) a candidate at a Dáil, Seanad or European election,

(d) a political party,

(e) a third party, or

(f) an accounting unit,

shall, directly or through any intermediary, accept from a particular person in a particular year—

(i) a donation the value of which exceeds, in case the first-mentioned person falls within paragraph (a), (b), or (c), €1,000,

(ii) a donation the value of which exceeds, in case the first-mentioned person falls within paragraph (d), (e), or (f), €2,500, or

(iii) a donation of cash of an amount which exceeds €200.”.”.

These amendments will introduce a ban on all cash donations greater than €200. Donations made up of large amounts of cash not only look wrong but are wrong. Currently, there is no prohibition on the acceptance of cash donations. The Mahon tribunal recommended that this issue be addressed.

On a point of order, the listing handed out relates to the Gaeltacht Bill. We cannot deal with the Gaeltacht Bill because it was dealt with this morning. I realise it is not the Minister's fault. Can we wait until we get the groupings?

Is it the groupings?

It is as Gaeilge.

The groupings are different from what we have before us.

They are from the Gaeltacht Bill.

We are working off a different sheet.

Perhaps the Minister is trying to confuse us altogether.

I thought Deputy McGrath said it was not my fault. He has changed his mind.

I did it to keep the Minister in humour.

He changes his mind regularly.

Can we proceed with the debate? The amendment groupings are on the way.

Where are we now?

I have read it out. Do you want me to re-read it? The Minister has moved amendment No. 9. Amendments Nos. 9, 24 and 34 are related and will be discussed together. The Minister is addressing it.

The effect of these amendments is to require that all donations in excess of €200 be made by cheque or some form other than cash.

Amendment put and declared carried.

Amendment No. 10 is in the name of Deputy Stanley. Amendments Nos. 10, 14, 32 and 35 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 7, to delete lines 16 to 40, to delete page 8, and in page 9, to delete lines 1 to 33 and to substitute the following:

7.—The Act of 1997 is amended by inserting the following section after section 23A (inserted by section 49(d) of the Act of 2001):

"23AA.—(1) None of the following persons namely—

(a) a member of either House of the Oireachtas,

(b) a member of the European Parliament,

(c) a candidate at a Dáil, Seanad or European election,

(d) a political party,

(e) a third party, or

(f) an accounting unit,

shall not directly or through any intermediary accept any corporate donations.

(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), a donation shall not be prohibited under that subsection where—

(a) a provider of a programme of education and training,

makes a payment to a club, society or other body, operating with the permission and on the premises of the provider of a programme of education and training, and every member of which is a student who is enrolled or registered with the provider of a programme of education and training.

(3) Where, notwithstanding subsection (1) a donation the acceptance of which is prohibited by that subsection, is made to a person referred to therein, the donee shall, not later than 14 days after the receipt of the donation either, return the donation or, in the case of a donation which is a monetary donation, the part of it exceeding the limit concerned to the corporate donor and keep a written record of that return for the purposes of it being furnished to the Standards in Public Office Commission, if required by it.

(4) The Standards in Public Office Commission shall dispose of all moneys, property or goods received under subsection (3) in such manner as may be directed by the Minister for Finance.".".

Sinn Féin opposes the practice of corporate donations to political parties. Our amendments state clearly that there should be a total ban on corporate donations, whether large or small and whether paid directly or through any intermediary, but an exemption from the new registration requirements is given to a provider of a programme of education and training or a students' union where such a body makes a payment to a students' society or club. This will allow colleges or students' unions to continue to provide financial support to student groups that promote political participation without being obliged to comply with the new corporate donor requirements. These grants to student societies can hardly be regarded as the sort of corporate donation that needs to be restricted, and this exemption does not contradict our objective of enhancing the openness and transparency of political funding in Ireland. There is a world of difference between a student society getting a payment from a third level institution to fund a political society and what we are talking about here in terms of corporate donations. Students' unions should not be subject to this.

The amendments from Deputy Stanley and Sinn Féin would effectively delete most of the provisions dealing with corporate donations from the Bill. On Second Stage I outlined the legal reasons an outright ban on corporate donations raises questions with reference to Article 40 of the Constitution on freedom of expression and freedom of association. The amendments put forward by Sinn Féin do not have sufficient regard to the compatibility of an outright ban on corporate donations with these constitutional commitments. My legal advice from the Attorney General is that, notwithstanding that the Government would have nothing against these particular matters in principle, it cannot be done in practice because of the constitutional issues. However, these issues can be referred in the future to the constitutional convention for consideration.

The matter of exemptions for students is already dealt with through amendments that I introduced earlier, which reflect the spirit of ensuring that student societies in colleges continue to be able to engage in politics with the help of funding from the societies and from the third level colleges themselves.

Is the Minister quoting advice from the Attorney General on those amendments?

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 78; Níl, 30.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Nulty, Patrick.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Luke 'Ming'.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Troy, Robert.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Sandra McLellan.
Question declared carried.

Amendments Nos. 11, 18, 19, 25, 28, 29, 36, 41, 43 and 44 are related. Amendment No. 17 is also related and is an alternative to amendment No. 18, and amendment No. 42 is also related and is an alternative to amendment No. 41. Therefore, amendments Nos. 11, 17 to 19, inclusive, 25, 28, 29, 36 and 41 to 44, inclusive, will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 9, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:

8.—The Act of 1997 is amended by inserting the following new section after section 23AA (inserted by section 7 of the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012):

“23AB.—A person who makes a donation on behalf of another person shall notify in writing—

(a) the member of either House of the Oireachtas,

(b) the member of the European Parliament,

(c) the candidate at a Dáil, Seanad or European election,

(d) the political party,

(e) the third party, or

(f) the accounting unit,

to whom the donation is made—

(i) that the donation is made on behalf of a person other than the person making the donation, and

(ii) the name, description and postal address of the person on whose behalf the donation is made.”.

The ten amendments all relate to the introduction of new restrictions on indirect donations or "donations given through intermediaries", as they are described. The amendments respond to the Mahon tribunal recommendation that indirect donations be prohibited. In making its recommendation, the tribunal commented that, under the Electoral Act 1997:

... indirect contributions are permitted if the recipient knows the name of and the address of the person on whose behalf the donation is made. It is not, however, an offence to fail to inform the recipient of the person's true name and address.

These amendments will require that where an indirect donation is given, the identity of the person on whose behalf the donation is made must also be provided to the recipient.

It will be an offence to fail to provide this information and the intermediary making the indirect donation can be prosecuted. The amendments will introduce a mechanism that will make it an offence not to provide the name of an indirect donor. In doing so, it will have the effect of prohibiting anonymous indirect donations and will respond to the relevant Mahon tribunal recommendation.

Amendments Nos. 17 and 42 submitted by Deputy Brian Stanley on behalf of Sinn Féin are being discussed with this group. Each seeks to amend the same sections of the Bill as Government amendments Nos. 18 and 41, albeit for a different purpose. We have dealt with five related amendments from Sinn Féin on the corporate donations provision included in the Bill and the purpose of these combined amendments, including the amendments being dealt with, is to ban corporate donations. As I said, that is not constitutionally possible. The Government has set out its approach to this matter which is legally sound. Therefore, I oppose amendments Nos. 17 and 42.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 9, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:

9.—Section 23B (inserted by section 49(d) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1997 is amended in subsection (1) by substituting “€100” for “£100”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 9, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:

10.—Section 23C (inserted by section 49(d) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1997 is amended by substituting “€100” for “£100”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 9, to delete lines 34 to 45, to delete pages 10 to 12 and in page 13, to delete lines 1 to 3.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand," put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 15 is in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 16, 23 and 38 are related and they may all be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 13, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

“(a) in paragraph (a) of subsection (1)—

(i) by substituting the following subparagraphs for subparagraphs (i) and (ii):

“(i) the value of the donation,

(ii) the name, description and postal address of the person by or on whose behalf the donation was made,”

and

(ii) by inserting the following subparagraphs after subparagraph (ii):

“(iii) the date on which the donation was received,

(iv) whether the donation was requested from the donor, and if so, the name and postal address of the person who requested the donation, and

(v) whether a receipt issued to the donor in respect of the donation, and if so, the date on which the receipt issued and the name of the person who issued the receipt.”.”.

These four amendments will require that additional information be included in the statement of donations submitted to the Standards in Public Office Commission by candidates at all elections, political parties, third parties and elected representatives. The Mahon tribunal recommended that "donation recipients should be required to provide more detailed information regarding the source and nature of donations which they have received". While the new requirements for the registration of corporate donors contained in the Bill will mean that detailed information will be available on such donors, I propose to apply additional requirements to all donations, corporate and non-corporate. The tribunal has recommended that in distinguishing between contributions which are true political donations and those which it describes as bribes, additional details should be included in a donation declaration form to identify, first, whether the donation was solicited, second, the name of the person soliciting the donation and whether a receipt was given and, third, the date the donation was given and received. Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 will apply these provisions to Dáil, Seanad and European Parliament elections and election candidates, political parties and third parties. Amendments Nos. 23 and 38 will apply the new requirements respectively at presidential elections and to local authority members.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 13, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:

“(b) in subsection (2)—

(i) in paragraph (a) by substituting “(i) to (v)” for “(i) and (ii)”, and

(ii) in paragraph (b) by substituting “(i) to (v)” for “(i) and (ii)”

and”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 13, lines 23 to 31, to delete all words from and including “knowingly” in line 23 down to and including “respect.”,” in line 31 and substitute the following:

“knowingly accepts payments of the kind outlined in section 23AA(1)(ii) (inserted by section 7 of the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding Act) 2012).”,”.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand," put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 13, to delete line 31 and substitute the following:

2012) which is false or misleading in any material respect.

(1E) A person shall be guilty of an offence if he or she—

(a) contravenes section 23AB (inserted by section 8 of the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012), or

(b) knowingly furnishes information under section 23AB which is false or misleading in any material respect.”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 13, line 33, to delete “(1C) or (1D)” and substitute “(1C), (1D), or (1E)(b)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 13, between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following:

“(2) Section 26(2)(b) of the Act of 1997 is amended by deleting the words “Trade Union”.”.

The point of this amendment is that for the purposes of making political donations, a trade union should not be considered as a corporation in the same way, for example, as a major bank, a major multinational corporation or a private company which will make donations to political parties from its profits. A trade union is a different entity being made up of thousands and, in some cases, tens of thousands of ordinary members who might want to make contributions through their union towards a political purpose or a particular political party. Subject to its democratic procedures, a trade union should be treated distinctly from a decision by a board of well heeled capitalists to make a donation which is largely for the purpose of affecting policy on behalf of a corporate minority, whereas trade unions, in general, represent ordinary working class people, workers who do not in any sense have the same clout or access to the political establishment as the major corporations through their lobbying and the various means by which they can influence policy, apart from the fact that many of the establishment political parties in the State are ideologically at one with the thinking of the big business elite. In that regard, in fairness to workers and to allow for more alternative voices in opposition to, for example, the austerity policies of the Government and its predecessor, an exception should be made.

Unfortunately, I was taken short on amendment No. 7 owing to some confusion. I cannot go back to it, but I wonder why the Minister would not agree that Oireachtas Members should be able to donate to their own party up to the current limit, considering that the limits on donations from corporations, etc. were to ensure there would not be a danger of corruption. However, that would not arise where an Oireachtas Member wanted to donate a larger amount to his or her party. There are no implications in terms of there being a conflict of interest or anything like it. I know we have passed amendment No. 7, but I would be interested to hear the Minister explain, perhaps in one sentence, the reason he would not agree to this.

The amendment would delete the term "trade union" from section 26(2)(a) of the Electoral Act 1997. This subsection clarifies that multiple donations given to the same person by a trade union must be aggregated in the annual report made by a trade union to the Registrar of Friendly Societies. The amendment would not radically change the existing provisions in the current legislation or the Bill, but it would have a limited effect, especially given the new restrictions on donations, and introduce an inconsistency into the legislation.

The purpose of the Bill is to restrict the influence of corporate donations and corporate donors. The definition of the term "corporate donor" embraces all classes and categories of bodies. It is all-encompassing and encapsulates all incorporated and unincorporated bodies which include companies, trade unions, trusts, partnerships, societies, associations, clubs and non-governmental organisations. Everybody is treated the same. It is essential that all of these bodies are brought within the scope of the legislation and that they operate transparently when making political donations. Trade unions are not being singled out positively or negatively in that regard. They are being treated the same as everybody else.

What about the other point made?

Deputy Catherine Murphy will tell the Deputy all about it.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 13, to delete lines 40 to 42 and in page 14, to delete lines 1 to 9 and substitute the following:

12.—Section 46(2) of the Act of 1997 is amended in paragraph (aa) (inserted by section 49(f) of the Act of 2001) by—

(a) substituting “€100” for “£100” in the definition of “third party”, and

(b) inserting the following definitions:

“ ‘company’ means a company established under the Companies Acts;

‘corporate donor’ means—

(a) a body corporate,

(b) an unincorporated body of persons, or

(c) a trust,

which makes a donation, and for the purposes of this definition a body corporate and any subsidiary thereof shall be deemed to be one person;”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 14, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

13.—Section 47 (amended by section 49(g) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1997 is amended in subsection (1) by substituting “€100” for “£100”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 14, to delete lines 10 and 11 and substitute the following:

13.—Section 48 of the Act of 1997 is amended in subsection (1)—

(a) by substituting “€600” for “£500”,

(b) by substituting the following paragraphs for paragraphs (a) and (b):

“(a) the value of the donation,

(b) the name, description and postal address of the person by or on whose behalf the donation was made,”

and

(c) by inserting the following paragraphs after paragraph (b):

“(c) the date on which the donation was received,

(d) whether the donation was requested from the donor, and if so, the name and postal address of the person who requested the donation, and

(e) whether a receipt issued to the donor in respect of the donation, and if so, the date on which the receipt issued and the name of the person who issued the receipt.”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 14, to delete lines 12 to 15 and substitute the following:

14.—Section 48A (inserted by section 49(h) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1997 is amended by substituting the following subsection for subsection (1):

“(1) Without prejudice to subsection (2), none of the following persons, namely—

(a) a candidate,

(b) a presidential election agent, or

(c) a third party at a presidential election,

shall directly or through any intermediary, accept from a particular person in a particular year—

(i) a donation the value of which exceeds, in case the first-mentioned person falls within paragraph (a) or (b), €1,000,

(ii) a donation the value of which exceeds, in case the first-mentioned person falls within paragraph (c), €2,500, or

(iii) a donation of cash of an amount which exceeds €200.”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 16, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:

16.—The Act of 1997 is amended by inserting the following new section after section 48AA (inserted by section 15 of the Electoral (Amendment)(Political Funding) Act 2012):

“48AB.—A person who makes a donation on behalf of another person shall notify in writing—

(a) the candidate,

(b) the presidential election agent, or

(c) the third party at a presidential election,

to whom the donation is made—

(i) that the donation is made on behalf of a person other than the person making the donation, and

(ii) the name, description and postal address of the person on whose behalf the donation is made.”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 16, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:

17.—Section 48B (inserted by section 49(h) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1997 is amended in subsection (1) by substituting “€100” for “£100”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 16, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:

18.—Section 48C (inserted by section 49(h) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1997 is amended by substituting “€100” for “£100”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 16, to delete lines 18 to 23 and substitute the following:

“(b) by inserting the following subsections after subsection (2):

“(2A) A person shall be guilty of an offence if he or she knowingly furnishes a statement referred to in section 48AA(1)(ii) (inserted by section 15 of the Electoral Amendment)(Political Funding) Act 2012) which is false or misleading in any material respect,

(2B) A person shall be guilty of an offence if he or she—

(a) contravenes section 48AB (inserted by section 16 of the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012), or

(b) knowingly furnishes information under section 48AB which is false or misleading in any material respect.”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 16, line 26, to delete “subsection (2A)” and substitute “subsection (2A), (2B)(b)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 17, to delete lines 9 to 22 and substitute the following:

20.—Section 19A (inserted by section 58(m) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1999 is amended by—

(a) substituting “€100” for “£100” in the definition of “third party”, and

(b) inserting the following definitions:

“ ‘company’ means a company established under the Companies Acts;

‘corporate donor’ means—

(a) a body corporate,

(b) an unincorporated body of persons, or

(c) a trust,

which makes a donation, and for the purposes of this definition a body corporate and any subsidiary thereof shall be deemed to be one person;

‘register of corporate donors’ means the register established under section 23D (inserted by section 8 of the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012) of the Act of 1997;”.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 31 not moved.

I move amendment No. 32:

In page 17, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

“(2) A candidate at an election shall not directly or through any intermediary accept any corporate donations.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 17, line 23, after “2001)” to insert “of the Act of 1999”.

This is a technical provision to ensure that correct referencing is applied. The amendment will clarify that the Act of 1999 is being amended in this instance.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 17, to delete lines 25 to 30 and substitute the following:

“(a) by substituting the following subsection for subsection (1):

“(1) (a) Without prejudice to subsection (2) a candidate at an election shall not, directly or through any intermediary, accept in connection with the election from a particular person—

(i) a donation the value of which exceeds €1,000, or

(ii) a donation of cash of an amount which exceeds €200.

(b) Without prejudice to subsection (2), none of the following persons, namely—

(i) a member of a local authority,

(ii) a political party, or

(iii) a third party,

shall, directly or through any intermediary, accept from a particular person in a particular year—

(I) a donation the value of which exceeds, in case the firstmentioned person falls within subparagraph (i), €1,000,

(II) a donation the value of which exceeds, in case the firstmentioned person falls within subparagraph (ii) or (iii), €2,500, or

(III) a donation of cash of an amount which exceeds €200.”,”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 17, to delete lines 34 to 39, to delete pages 18 and 19, and in page 20, to delete lines 1 to 7 and substitute the following:

“22.—The Act of 1999 is amended by inserting the following section after section 19B (inserted by section 58(m) of the Act of 2001):

“19BB.—(1) A candidate at an election shall not, directly or through any intermediary, accept in connection with the election from a particular corporate donor a donation the value of which exceeds €200 unless—

(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), a donation shall not be prohibited under that subsection where—

(a) a provider of a programme of education and training, or

(b) the students’ union or other representative body recognised by a provider of a programme of education and training, makes a payment to a club, society or other body, operating with the permission and on the premises of the provider of a programme of education and training, and every member of which is a student who is enrolled or registered with the provider of a programme of education and training.

(3) Where, notwithstanding subsection (1), a donation the acceptance of which is prohibited by that subsection, is made to a person referred to therein the donee shall, not later than days after the receipt of the donation, either—

(a) return the donation, or in the case of a donation referred to in subsection (1) which is a monetary donation, the part of it exceeding the limit concerned, to the corporate donor and keep a written record of that return for the purposes of its being furnished to the local authority concerned, if required by it, or

(b) notify the local authority concerned of such receipt and remit the donation, or in the case of a donation referred to in subsection (1) which is a monetary donation, the part of it exceeding the limit concerned or the value thereof to the local authority.

(4) A local authority shall dispose of all moneys, property or goods received by it under subsection (3) in such manner as it determines.

(5) In this section—

‘provider of a programme of education and training’ has the same meaning as it has in section 2 of the Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 1999.”.”.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand," put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 20, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:

23.—The Act of 1999 is amended by inserting the following new section after section 19BB (inserted by section 22 of the Electoral (Amendment)(Political Funding) Act 2012):

“19BC.—(1) A person who makes a donation on behalf of another person shall notify in writing the candidate at an election to whom the donation is made—

(a) that the donation is made on behalf of a person other than the person making the donation, and

(b) the name, description and postal address of the person on whose behalf the donation is made.

(2) A person who makes a donation on behalf of another person shall notify in writing—

(a) the member of a local authority,

(b) the political party, or

(c) the third party, to whom the donation is made—

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 20, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:

24.—Section 19D (inserted by section 58(m) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1999 is amended in subsection (1) by substituting “€100” for “£100”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 20, to delete lines 11 to 13 and substitute the following:

24.—Subsection (1) of section 19E (inserted by section 58(m) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1999 is amended—

(a) by substituting “€600” for “£500”,

(b) by substituting the following subparagraphs for subparagraphs (i) and (ii):

“(i) the value of the donation,

(ii) the name, description and postal address of the person by or on whose behalf the donation was made,”

and

(c) by inserting the following subparagraphs after subparagraph (ii):

“(iii) the date on which the donation was received,

(iv) whether the donation was requested from the donor, and if so, the name and postal address of the person who requested the donation, and

(v) whether a receipt issued to the donor in respect of the donation, and if so, the date on which the receipt issued and the name of the person who issued the receipt.”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 20, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

25.—Section 19F (inserted by section 58(m) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1999 is amended in subsection (1) by substituting “€100” for “£100”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 20, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

26.—Section 19G (inserted by section 58(m) of the Act of 2001) of the Act of 1999 is amended by substituting “€100” for “£100”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 20, to delete lines 21 to 29 and substitute the following:

“(iii) by inserting the following new paragraphs after paragraph (b):

“(bb) knowingly furnishes a statement referred to in subparagraph (ii) of section 19BB(1)(a) or clause (II) of section 19BB (1)(b) (inserted by section 22 of the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012) which is false or misleading in any material respect,

(bc) contravenes section 19BC(1) or (2) (inserted by section 23 of the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012), or

(bd) knowingly furnishes information under section 19BC (1) or (2) which is false or misleading in any material respect.”.”.

I move a verbal amendment to the text of amendment No. 41, to correct a drafting error:

-in the text to be inserted at paragraph (bc) of the amendment, to delete the "or" at the end of the paragraph, and

-to change the full stop at the end of paragraph (bd) to a comma.

Amendment to amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 41, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment No. 42 not moved.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 20, line 34, to delete “19BB, 19D” and substitute “19BB, 19BC, 19D”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 20, line 36, to delete “(4B)(bb)” and substitute “(4B)(bb), (4B)(bd)”.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 45 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 46 to 48, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 23, line 21, to delete “Chairman” and substitute “Chairperson”.

One of the key aspects of the Bill relates to gender quotas. That will be almost exclusively to ensure an adequate number of women are included in the political system. It is an example of positive discrimination of which I am in favour. It seems strange that the Bill would include gender-specific language such as the word "Chairman" in the context of the Bill. I seek to change the language and to use the word "Chairperson". It is particularly relevant given the content of the Bill.

I have great sympathy with the amendments and I would love to accept them, but I had to get legal advice on whether the use of "Chairperson" would be more appropriate than "Chairman". In the Constitution the Ceann Comhairle is referred to as the Chairman of Dáil Éireann. The reference appears in a number of places, specifically in Articles 14, 15, 16, 22, 24, 27, 31, 33 and 35. The term used in the Bill is correct from a legal point of view, although the Deputy does highlight a valid point. For legal reasons I cannot accept the amendments but the spirit of what Deputy Murphy is trying to achieve will have to be considered in the review of the Constitution which is due to begin shortly.

I accept that what the Minister said is correct from a legal point of view but it serves to highlight just how discriminatory language is in terms of inclusiveness. This is not the type of issue that gets priority in constitutional amendments but it could easily be dealt with in conjunction with other matters. It would be an easy issue to explain to more than 50% of the population. Having an in-built majority would be helpful.

A valid submission could be made on the matter to the constitutional convention. Perhaps Deputy Murphy will be a participant in it herself.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand," put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 24, line 20, to delete “Chairman” and substitute “Chairperson”.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand," put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 48:

In page 24, line 35, to delete “Chairman” and substitute “Chairperson”.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand," put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 49 to 52, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 26, to delete line 42, and in page 27, to delete lines 1 and 2 and substitute the following:

“at the general election held subsequent to the polling day specified in the subparagraph (i)”.

I wish to speak on behalf of Deputy Donnelly. When we debated this issue on Committee Stage, the Deputy made a valid point about increasing the quota to 40%, and he provided statistics. This amendment is to do with timing. The provisions will become active after the next general election - in effect, ten years after the end of this term. However, if we intend to change the culture we must act much more quickly. There is a defect in the Bill in the sense that the length of time was not anticipated. We had a good debate on Committee Stage, and I am sure Deputy Donnelly can more than adequately go through the detail. If we are to change the culture and if quotas are to mean something then we cannot do so in a manner that could be open to criticism at a later point or that would allow an accusation of tokenism. That is my take on the issue. I am sure Deputy Donnelly will discuss the detail.

I reiterate that I applaud what the Minister is doing with this Bill and its passage today is an historic event in Ireland. No one desires quotas and I do not believe women coming in to politics seek them. However, as Members are aware, the evidence from all over the world shows that in a political system such as that which obtains in Ireland at present, which has systemic discrimination against women entering politics at a cultural level and in previous times at a legislative level, the only way one can achieve a balance is through quotas. In time, they can be taken away and I note some countries have used quotas to reach the balance and subsequently have removed them. I told the Minister on Second and Committee Stages that I applaud this measure and consider the Bill to be historic legislation.

The amendment concerns the time at which the quota moves from 30% to 40%. On the assumption that this Dáil will last for its expected duration, there will be a move to 30% within three and a half or four years. I understand the Labour Party needs only to find three to five candidates to meet the quota, while Fine Gael must find approximately 13 candidates to so do. The issue is that as currently written, the legislation provides that the 40% quota will come in at the election held seven years after the next election. This means there will be an election in three and a half or four years, at which time the 30% quota will be introduced. This is historic and is to be welcomed. Thereafter, however, seven years must elapse before being able to go to the next level. If one assumes full Dáil terms, this will result in the 40% quota being introduced in 14 years' time. My concern is that having considered the 30% quota, the parties will decide to find the additional candidates needed to hit that quota, that is, three or four and 13 in the case of the Labour Party and Fine Gael, respectively, but that they will not need to worry about it again for another decade. I believe such a timelag would kill the momentum required to achieve real cultural reform and proper representation of women within our democracy, which is the spirit of the Bill. Members should recall that in respect of female representation worldwide, Ireland is currently ranked in 86th place and lies behind Afghanistan. Sadly, if one considers the results from the last general election, we are moving backwards. While the 30% quota is important, it will be just as important to have a strong signal from the Minister, Deputy Hogan, and the Government to the effect that Ireland is moving to 30% and then to 40%. The message should not be that Ireland is moving to 30%, after which there will be a ten-year wait before going to 40%.

It is possible, based on the Committee Stage debate, that the intention of the Bill was not necessarily to wait an additional ten years and to have the introduction of the 40% quota in 14 years' time. Consequently, the amendment as tabled provides for a move to a quota of 30% at the next election - let us assume this will take place in three or four years - and then, at the subsequent election, to move to a quota of 40%. I understand there could be a concern that in the event of an election being held in three and a half years' time, another election could be held a year later and such momentum potentially would be too quick and might force the system to move in an unhealthy way. Consequently, I suggest the Minister might consider accepting an oral amendment. The first line on page 27 of the Bill provides for "7 years". In other words, we will wait seven years after the next election and in the election after that, the quota will move to 40%. I asked the Minister to consider changing the aforementioned number from 7 to 3. This would avoid the scenario in which there was a move to 30% in three and a half years' time, followed within a year and a half by another election at which the quota rose to 40%. In specifying three rather than seven years, Members would ensure the process does not move too fast but, critically, would also ensure a move to 30% in three or four years from now and thereafter a move to 40% in four or five years' time.

It is a fairly minor change but before I was elected to Dáil Éireann, I spent several years working both here and abroad on cultural change within large complex public organisations. Based on that experience, I believe that achieving the type of cultural change Members seek and having proper representation of women within Dáil Éireann would be best served by maintaining the momentum wherein we move to 30% within three and a half years and then go to 40% in five years' time. I believe that is the spirit of what is intended. I ask the Minister to consider accepting an oral amendment to change the period from seven years to three years.

This amendment was debated on Committee Stage, when it was tabled by Deputies Catherine Murphy and Donnelly. Deputy Donnelly used the word "spirit" in respect of the amendment and all Members would agree with the spirit of the amendment. It is somewhat ironic that Independent Members are discussing party quotas when they are not obliged to impose that measure on themselves, although members of political parties will be so obliged.

That is because we are not given any funding.

However, having listened to his comments, Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan may be interested that when I introduced a Private Members' Bill on this issue in 2008, I was told I was being fanciful, this would not be achievable and this was a type of social engineering that it was not the job of this House to be doing. However, Members are debating this measure this evening. In approximately one hour's time, all Stages of deliberations on the Bill will have been completed and it will have been passed as legislation. Moreover, it will be on its way to Áras an Uachtaráin tomorrow afternoon to President Higgins. This constitutes a milestone in electoral reform in Ireland. It has put down a benchmark that has been long awaited and that previous Administrations have ignored. At the next general election, political parties will be obliged to have a gender balance of 70% to 30% at a minimum.

There is an assumption in the amendment tabled by Deputy Donnelly that political parties will simply hit the 30% quota and go no further. However, it could well be the case that the 30% quota could be exceeded and that which Deputy Donnelly seeks could come about anyway because for the first time, political parties will be required to respond to gender measures. However, I acknowledge there is an issue in that political parties may simply hit that 30% target. This leaves open the possibility in future Administrations, at which time Deputy Donnelly himself could be in government, for the Minister of the Environment, Community and Local Government of the day after the next election to revert to this legislation and amend it. However, the particular issue under discussion concerns the laying down of a benchmark and a milestone. I note that when it has been introduced in other countries across Europe and elsewhere, it has been found that as soon as the process begins, the numbers start moving in the direction sought. As far as this legislation is concerned, my hope for a future amendment is that a sunset clause will be inserted in respect of this provision because the position will have been reached at which membership of this House reflects the societal balance in respect of gender in Ireland. In other words, I anticipate a time in the future at which it will not be necessary to legislate for such measures, as the desired outcome would arise naturally from the political process. Ultimately, this is what this legislation is about. It is not even about an issue of gender but is about a societal issue, in that as a society, Ireland must have a Parliament that reflects the balance of gender in the public. Consequently, just as I did during the debate on this amendment on Committee Stage, I welcome the intent of Deputy Donnelly's amendment. However, we are moving on an incremental position. I note that other reforming legislation in this House, such as the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, which also was an incremental measure, now brings Members onto other positions. Ultimately, while I welcome what Deputy Donnelly is proposing, what is being done today is the correct measure.

Sinn Féin fully supports gender quotas and we agree with that aspect of the Bill and what it is doing for politics and gender. However, it should be decoupled from corporate donations and it is a bit disingenuous of the Government parties to put both together.

I do not think there is any irony in a Member of the House advocating for the representation of women in politics, whether the Member is in a party or not. There is nothing ironic about me standing up here at all. In terms of political form in this country, it is the single most important thing we need to do, although I think there is a lot we need to do. I believe passionately in it and I will continue to support the Minister on it, but there is certainly no irony in me advocating for it.

I have a concern about the Minister's statement that the parties may exceed the quota themselves. Perhaps they will. I hope they will, but let us look at what is going on in the culture. We are moving backwards. Were we on a path that had already 20%, 25%, 30% and looking at 35%, then I would say that they may exceed it, but we are not on that path. We are going backwards. One of the things that has really surprised me in my time as a Deputy is some of the hostility towards greater female participation. When we were discussing this one day, a TD told me that a woman's place is in the home and that politics is a man's business. This was not a member of the old guard in politics for the last 30 years. I have heard some horrific comments on the culture. I accept that this is not necessarily the norm, but it is there and it is strong. Let us look at the future politicians from Young Fine Gael and Ógra Fianna Fáil as examples, because we know how they voted. They voted against quotas. If we look at the culture and where the system is going, then we must conclude that the system, sadly, is going in the opposite direction to that which the Minister and I hoped it would go. That is why we need an enforcing mechanism. It would be great if we did not need quotas. My concern is with where the system is going.

This is historic legislation and I congratulate the Minister and the Government on it. This amendment was not tabled on Committee Stage but it arose during debates at that Stage. It comes down to a simple issue. Do we want to wait 14 years to move to 40%? The legislation states that the threshold shall be 40%, so we are going to 40%. This amendment is all about momentum and it is about a very clear signal to the system which states that we are moving to 30% and five years later we are moving to 40%, as opposed to moving to 30% and 14 years later moving to 40%. That is all it is. We agree absolutely on where the system needs to go. As somebody who has spent time looking at how to change cultures, I believe strongly that waiting 14 years to go to 40% is just too long. We could wait nine years. That would be a small but very important change in shifting and building the momentum. That is what this is about. I ask that it be considered.

I can understand clearly where Deputies Donnelly and Murphy are coming from. The gender balance provisions we are putting in the Bill are ambitious. It refers to the participation of women in politics in particular, but we must be conscious of the fact that 15.19% of candidates elected in the last general election were women. It is a fair challenge to get to 30% between now and the next election, unless there is a cultural change in the political system. The 30% requirement will double the amount of female participation in the next general election. It is a matter for the electorate then to decide whether they want to elect those people, whether they are male or female.

We studied the recent French elections. A parity law was introduced in France in 2000 and it provided for a gender balance in candidate selection at general elections. It linked candidate selection to the funding of political parties, in a similar way to what we are doing here. By 2007, the number of women elected to the French National Assembly stood at just 18.5%, but on 17 June 2012, the number of women elected increased to 26.8%. It has taken a bit of time since 2000 to increase the number of women elected to the French National Assembly by 50%. There are now 155 women in the French National Assembly. It took a period of time for people to gear up to the notion that we should make a bigger political and cultural effort to bring about a greater gender balance in the make-up of our parliamentary system.

I understand the bona fides of Deputy Donnelly and what he is trying to achieve. Let us see how we can bed in the 30% quota for the next election. There is nothing stopping any future Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government amending that legislation after that election, so that the momentum to which the Deputy refers can be maintained. I will be glad to keep an eye on this. I am sure all Members who spoke on the issue are not divided on the principle of it, but perhaps we are taking a more pragmatic approach in the political system to ensuring we do not fall flat on our faces when achieving the objective of increasing the participation of women in politics.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 54 and 55 are out of order.

Amendments Nos. 54 and 55 not moved.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Quite a number of the amendments that I tabled were ruled out of order. I tried to take one of them directly from an amendment in the Seanad which dealt with vouching moneys. I believe that all public moneys should be properly accounted for and vouched, and I am very disappointed that this has been ruled out of order. I tabled two amendments on the issue and I am disappointed that I did not get to debate them. I thought the amendment which had been tabled in the Seanad, which I changed marginally, would have been accepted as it was accepted in the Seanad. We have to deal with that issue. It is very disappointing that it takes so long to deal with things that are so obviously necessary and the right things to do.

The key issue in the Bill is that of gender quotas and it is really important that this happens. It clearly does not apply to Independents because it is linked to a sanction in the funding system and that particular stream of funding does not apply to Independents. That funding comes under the Electoral Acts, which goes back to the original amendment that I spoke about earlier. The real movement towards a parliament that reflects the citizens should begin at local government level.

I accept the Minister's point that the same set of circumstances apply and a sanction is not available to be included in the Bill. It will, however, be essential. If one wants to see a greater number of women in the political system, it will happen at local government level in the first instance. For example, in Kildare, when I stood for election in 2009, there were 43 candidates for county council elections, of whom six were women. There were three electoral areas where there was no choice on the ballot paper. We have to see an end to this type of offering.

There are several provisions missing from this Bill. One hopes we will see more comprehensive legislation to deal with electoral funding in the broader sense. The Standards in Public Office Commission constantly complains every year about the amount of funding that appears to be available, even in election years, that does not find its way through the process of declaration. That impacts very negatively on the political system.

Obviously, Parliament moves slowly and there are other legislative priorities, some of them dictated by outside bodies. Restoring faith in the political system will only happen if political parties and politicians are affected negatively as a consequence of legislation such as this. There are several other elements that should have been contained in this Bill. I will probably end up introducing a Private Members' Bill to address the provisions that were rejected. My amendments that were ruled out of order are long enough to warrant doing that.

I thank the officials involved in putting together this important legislation which I hope will make a difference. The debate on Committee Stage was useful but I believe there is a long way to go before we have a political system that is funded in a way that will be accepted by the citizens.

On behalf of the Technical Group, I extend my thanks to the Ceann Comhairle and his entire team for all of his and their work in serving the Dáil this term. I understand we forgot to say that earlier on today.

It is self-evident that the same arguments for female representation at national level should apply at local government level. From the debate on this Bill, it is my understanding that the Government would like to see its provisions regarding female representation apply at local level. When I put it to the Minister before as to the possibility of bringing in quotas at local government level, he informed me it was not legislatively possible to tie political funding to local government elections. The Government would pursue the same quota provisions if it could find a forcing mechanism and some sort of sanction that could be applied against political parties at local level. Over recent days I contacted several civil society groups which are working to further female representation in political life. They told me they had an undertaking that this was being examined in other legislation and the Government is considering it. This was not brought up on Second or Committee Stages. Will the Minister confirm whether a quota mechanism for local government is being investigated?

I will be voting for this Bill. Once again, I congratulate the Minister and his officials on a truly historic Bill.

I also commend and congratulate the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, on this extensive legislation. Most of the focus has been on the particular section dealing with gender parity. I imagine this legislation will pass without challenge when it is put to the vote. It reminds me of the evening when the civil partnership legislation was passed in the previous Dáil. There was a feeling right across the House then that a good day's work had been done. A good day's work has also been done today on reforming the political system with regard to female participation. It is a matter for which all Members can claim a degree of ownership. I commend the Minister and his officials on taking this legislation through the various Stages and ensuring it will be law for the next general election.

Members of the 5050 Group, who would exceed Deputy Donnelly's ambitions with regards to female representation, are present in the Visitors Gallery. I commend and congratulate them on their own campaign. Obviously, when this Bill is passed, they will be back to us asking when we will get to 50:50 male-female ratio in political participation. It would be regrettable not to recognise the role played by the 5050 Group in addressing this issue.

We have begun the process of instilling a new type of dynamic and process in politics that I hope we will see at the next general election. I take Deputy Donnelly's point on board that we should not be scraping over the 30% line just to be compliant with the legislation but instead getting political representation to resemble society's gender balance.

I thank Deputy Niall Collins of Fianna Fáil, Deputies Stanley and McLellan of Sinn Féin, Deputies Catherine Murphy and Donnelly of the Technical Group, Deputy Ciarán Lynch, chair of the environment committee, and the officials for their co-operative work on this political funding Bill. The legislation's provisions were part of the programme for Government. I am delighted we were able to amend it today to take account of recommendations made by the Mahon tribunal so as to make political funding much more transparent and accountable, reduce the dependence on corporate donations and introduce a system in which people of both genders can participate in politics in a more open way.

Question put and agreed to.

The Bill is deemed by virtue of Article 20.2.2° of the Constitution to be a Bill initiated in Dáil Éireann. The Bill will now be sent to the Seanad.