Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Financial Contributions to Political Parties.

Tuesday, 21 February 1995

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 449 No. 4

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  11.  Mr. Molloy  Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy   asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications  Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry   if any of the semi-State bodies for which he is responsible have made direct or indirect financial contributions to any political party in the past three years; if so, if he will give details regarding these contributions, including the amounts paid and the name of each party; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3762/95]

Mr. Lowry: Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  Before I give the Deputy a specific answer to the question I want to make an important point on the policy I have laid down as Minister. While I am Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, I will not permit the semi-State companies under my control to make any financial contribution, directly or indirectly, to any political party.

I have written to the chairman of all the commercial State bodies for which I am responsible instructing them to adhere strictly to this policy.

Semi-State bodies under my aegis have not made direct contributions to political parties in the past three years but the ESB took up entertainment facilities promoted by the Fianna Fáil Party at the Galway Races in July 1994.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  A wise decision.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  A good bet.

Mr. Lowry: Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  The cost payable for [861] those facilities was £4,800. In order to test the ESB's position in regard to other parties in the context of this precedent set by the board's actions my party forwarded an information leaflet on a golf classic. I understand that the ESB was represented by a team in this event at a cost of £500. I understand that the ESB also participated in a similar Labour Party event. There was no mention of the Progressive Democrats in regard to participation in golf classics. On the question of any material benefits arising from participation in such a classic to any particular party the fee of £500 covers green fees, hospitality and dinner.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  And prizes.

Mr. Lowry: Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  I must, however, emphasise that the ESB does not and has not made contributions directly to any party. Nonetheless I have instructed the ESB, as well as the other semi-State agencies under my aegis, that I am strictly forbidding indirect contributions to political parties. I have no wish to be a killjoy or to impact on any event which can be proven to have a business benefit but it is reasonable to exclude fund raising activities from this scenario. I have decided to forbid any contributions to social activities organised by political parties which in effect amount to indirect contributions to those parties.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I welcome the Minister's statement that he has issued an instruction to each of the semi-State bodies under his aegis that they are not to make any contribution, directly or indirectly, to political parties. I regret that it took a question from the Progressive Democrats to bring this about. Does the Minister agree that it was highly inappropriate for his party, Fine Gael, and for Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party to solicit funds from a semi-State organisation? Am I to take it from his statement that he regrets having solicited funds from these organisations and that he accepts it was wrong to do [862] so? He owes this House and the public an apology. It was made clear in reply to earlier questions that some of these organisations are heavily in debt. It is outrageous that they allocated funds to political parties.

Mr. Lowry: Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  In his fury the Deputy will recognise and acknowledge that there is a huge difference between participation in a golf classic and forwarding £4,800 to cover the cost of facilities at an event.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Minister's party received less than Fianna Fáil; he has no shame.

Mr. Lowry: Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  Unfortunately for the Deputy I cannot allow him to command the high moral ground. I have been Minister for only eight weeks and I have already taken this course of action. The Deputy will recall that it was not unusual when he was Minister for the semi-State sector to fund golf classics.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  That is outrageous. At no time when I was Minister was I aware that any semi-State organisation acted in such a fashion. I am surprised that on the one hand the Minister is seeking to condone what his and other parties have been involved in and on the other is condemning it.

Mr. Lowry: Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  My actions speak louder than words. I have taken action already; I have written to the chairman of the commercial State bodies. The letter is precise and detailed and it sends a clear message that this practice is to be discontinued.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  In order to show his goodwill and his serious intent will the Minister return the taxpayers' money to the semi-State organisation which sent the cheque to Fine Gael? I make the same appeal to Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  May I ask a question?

[863]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  No; I would be glad to facilitate the Deputy but Standing Orders are against him.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  It is a three part question and I will be succinct.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Question No. 12, please. There is no question remaining and time is almost, if not, exhausted.


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