Home Featured Sinn Féin shelves attacks on Donohoe after holes in its own Irish election spending found
Sinn Féin shelves attacks on Donohoe after holes in its own Irish election spending found

Sinn Féin shelves attacks on Donohoe after holes in its own Irish election spending found

by host

DUBLIN — Ireland’s Sinn Féin shelved its aggressive efforts to oust Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe from office Thursday after the opposition party’s campaign against the Eurogroup president ended up casting an unwelcome spotlight on its own accounting.

The Irish republicans had been expected to demand a parliamentary vote of confidence in Donohoe who, until this week’s admission of problems in his 2016 and 2020 election returns, had barely a blemish on his government record. But Sinn Féin’s lawmakers reversed course after meeting behind closed doors inside the parliament building, Leinster House.

The U-turn followed two accusation-filled debates that, while denting Donohoe’s reputation for probity, also sparked media interest in whether Sinn Féin’s own election bookkeeping was in order.

Journalists didn’t have to look far beyond Sinn Fein’s biggest public election events to discover suspicious and sloppy failures in the party’s spending records from multiple elections.

They found missing Sinn Féin sums much larger than those of Donohoe, whose undeclared reliance on a business friend to erect campaign posters produced, by Donohoe’s calculations, a €234 breach in 2020 election spending limits and no breach in 2016. Opposition politicians challenge those figures as deceptively low.

The Irish Independent checked whether Sinn Féin had reported costs for renting a half-dozen venues for its highest-profile campaign events in 2016. Not a cent appeared in the declarations. When Sinn Féin didn’t reply to inquiries, the Independent contacted venues directly — and learned that one, the Royal Irish Academy, had never been paid the €600 owed.

The Irish Times found its own accounting holes in Sinn Fein’s declared spending for the 2019 European Parliament and 2020 general elections.

Unlike other Irish parties, Sinn Féin’s traditional power base lies in the neighboring U.K. region of Northern Ireland. The Irish Times found that at least some of its Republic of Ireland expenses were incurred north of the border and had been mislabeled as euros, not as pricier British pounds. Such errors shaved €945 off its 2020 spending records.

The Irish Times previously exposed Sinn Féin’s failure to report €7,000 spent on a U.K. polling firm’s work ahead of the 2020 vote.

Sinn Féin branded Donohoe’s undeclared poster-related donations as a deliberate cover-up but billed all of its own detected errors as accidental. The party said it would amend its previous financial declarations to the Standards in Public Office Commission, which is supposed to ensure spending rules are followed in elections and party fundraising but rarely is seen to take effective action.

When defending his Fine Gael party colleague in parliament, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar accused Sinn Féin of tapping multi-million donations from U.S. and U.K.-based supporters to distort fair political competition in the Republic of Ireland, which tries to set far tighter limits on election spending.

Senator Michael McDowell, a former justice minister and attorney general, called Sinn Féin’s posturing on the ethics of political fundraising “grotesque” and “laughable.”

“Sinn Féin operates at a level and with resources that no other party in this island can match,” McDowell wrote. “And because it operates in more than one jurisdiction, it is not amenable to our system of regulation of political donations.”

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