The Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan TD has announced further electoral reforms as part of the most significant political reform package announced in decades. The decisions taken by Government will restrict corporate donations significantly and cut political party funding by half unless 30% of general election candidates are women.
Speaking following Cabinet approval on the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011, Minister Hogan said; ‘In line with the Government’s commitment to significantly reform political funding in Ireland, this bill will implement commitments from the Programme for Government and recommendations made in the Moriarty Tribunal Report.
“Following 14 years of a complete absence of reform, this Government will implement a number of further initiatives, making this political reform package the most significant introduced in decades. The bill aims to increase transparency among all donations to ensure there is no question of unhealthy relationships. All political donations will now be done in an open and transparent manner.
“To increase the participation of women in politics, Parties will see their state funding halved if they do not meet the new requirements to have at least 30% women and 30% men candidates at the next Dáil general election. This will rise to 40% after seven years. This initiative is a groundbreaking political opportunity to incentivise a shift towards gender balance in Irish politics. Women make up 50% of our population and they are significantly underrepresented in our political institutions. This will have a positive impact on women’s participation in local elections also.”
The Bill will significantly reduce the maximum amount that can be accepted as a political donation. The thresholds for the declaration of donations are also being reduced. Among the measures being introduced are:
1.A reduction in the limits on political donations that may be accepted: from €6,348.69 to €2,500 by a political party and €2,539.48 to €1,000 by an individual
2.A reduction in the thresholds at which donations must be declared to SIPO from €5,078.95 to €1,500 by a political party; and from €634.87 to €600 for an individual
3.A ban on the acceptance of donations by political parties over €200 from all sources unless the body has been registered with the Standards in Public Office Commission.
4.A requirement that to qualify for full State funding under section 17 of the Electoral Act 1997 a qualifying political party will have to have at least 30% women candidates and at least 30% men candidates at the next general election. This will rise to 40% after seven years.
Other initiatives already announced as part of the Governments overall reform package, the most significant in decades are:
1.Changing the terms of reference of the Constituency Commission which will result in a reduction in the number of TDs
2.The reduction of the presidential election spending limit
3.The introduction of a six month time limit to hold bye-elections
4.The removal of the automatic entitlement of Ministerial cars and drivers
5.Cutting the pay of the Taoiseach, Ministers and Ministers of State
6.The removal of severance pay for Ministers
7.The Government will establish a Constitutional Convention to consider a comprehensive constitutional reform and will hold a referendum on the abolition of the Seanad.