The Electoral Acts

3.1 Requirements of the Electoral Acts

The Electoral Acts provide a statutory system for the acceptance and disclosure of political donations and the opening of political donations accounts. The Electoral Acts also provide for the limitation, disclosure and reimbursement of expenses at Dáil, European and presidential elections and for the payment and expenditure of Exchequer funding to qualified political parties.

A. Disclosure of Donations

A donation is defined in the Electoral Acts as a contribution given for political purposes. A donation includes money, property or goods, or the free or below cost use of property, goods or services. A donation also includes the net value of a contribution to a fund-raising event (the Standards Commissions guidelines on the disclosure requirements in relation to the proceeds of fund-raising events are provided at Appendix 5 to this manual).

It should be noted that there are a number of matters prescribed in section 22(2)(b) of the Electoral Acts which are not regarded as donations. These include:

  • free postage facilities provided, under statute, for candidates at elections,
  • certain payments, services or facilities provided by an institution of the European Communities or other intergovernmental organisation to which the State is a party,
  • the transmission on radio or television of a broadcast on behalf of a candidate at a Dáil or European election,
  • and expenses incurred by a political party on behalf of a member of either House of the Oireachtas, a representative in the European Parliament or a candidate at a Dáil, Seanad or European election, other than a donation of money.

The Electoral Acts provide that donations must be disclosed in a form determined by the Standards Commission. The Standards Commission produces Donation Statement forms for the purposes of disclosing donations. All donations from the same person in a particular year must be aggregated for the purposes of observing the thresholds governing the acceptance and disclosure of donations.

The Electoral Acts also provide that a Donation Statement form must be accompanied by a Statutory Declaration in which the person declares that the Donation Statement is, to the best of his / her knowledge and belief, correct in every material respect and that he / she has taken all reasonable action in order to be satisfied as to its accuracy. The Statutory Declaration must be witnessed by a Notary Public, Commissioner for Oaths, Peace Commissioner or Practising Solicitor. (An example of a Donation Statement form used by the Standards Commission is provided at Appendix 6 to this manual).

Donation Statements as follows are furnished to the Standards Commission under the Electoral Acts:

  • Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) must, by 31st January each year, furnish a Donation Statement disclosing all donations received by them during the preceding calendar year which have an aggregate value in excess of €634.87.
  • Political parties must, by 31st March each year, furnish a Donation Statement disclosing all donations received by them during the preceding calendar year which have an aggregate value in excess of €5,078.95. Political parties are required to appoint an appropriate officer for the purposes of making this disclosure.
  • Unsuccessful candidates at a Dáil, Seanad or European election and the election agents of all candidates at a presidential election must, within 56 days of polling day at the election, furnish a Donation Statement disclosing all donations received by them in relation to the election which have an aggregate value in excess of €634.87.

The practice and procedures of the Standards Commission in relation to the receipt of Donation Statements from political parties, Members, MEPs and unsuccessful candidates are set out in section 3.2A below.

  • An individual who, in a calendar year, makes donations the aggregate value of which exceeds €5,078.95 to one or more members of the same political party or to a political party itself and one or more of its members, is required under section 24(1A) of the Electoral Acts to furnish a Donation Statement to the Standards Commission by 31st January of the following year. The Donation Statement must disclose details of all such donations made by him / her during the preceding year. The practice and procedures of the Standards Commission in relation to the receipt of Donation Statements from individual donors are set out in section 3.2D below.
  • A company is required under section 26 of the Electoral Acts to include, in the annual report / return furnished by it to the Companies Office, details of all donations with an aggregate value of €5,078.95 or more made by the company during the year to which the report / return relates. A similar requirement applies to trades unions, building societies and other registered societies. The practice and procedures of the Standards Commission in relation to the disclosure of donations by companies, trades unions etc. are set out in section 3.2E below.


B.  Opening and maintenance of Political Donations Accounts

The Electoral Acts provide that where a monetary donation exceeding €126.97 is received in a particular calendar year, the recipient must open and maintain an account in a financial institution in the State (hereafter referred to as a Political Donations Account). The initial donation and any further monetary donations received, of whatever value, must be lodged to the account. Monies drawn from the account may only be used for political purposes.

Where a Political Donations Account has been opened certain statutory returns in relation to the account must be furnished to the Standards Commission. In each case a Certificate of Monetary Donations and a statement from the financial institution where the account has been opened, specifying the transactions that have taken place in relation to the account during a specific period must be furnished.

When completing a Certificate of Monetary Donations, the person certifies that all monetary donations received were lodged to the account and that all amounts debited from the account were used for political purposes. The Certificate of Monetary Donations is accompanied by a Statutory Declaration on which the person declares that the Certificate of Monetary Donations is, to the best of the person's knowledge and belief, correct in every material respect and that he / she has taken all reasonable action in order to be satisfied as to its accuracy. The Statutory Declaration must be witnessed by a Notary Public, Commissioner for Oaths, Peace Commissioner or Practising Solicitor. A sample Certificate of Monetary Donations and Statutory Declaration used by the Standards Commission is provided at Appendix 7 to this manual.

The requirements for each category of person who may be required to open a Political Donations Account are as follows:

  • a Member or MEP must furnish a Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from the financial institution with his / her annual Donation Statement. The Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from the financial institution are completed in respect of the previous calendar year. If the account was opened during the year, the statement must specify the transactions which have taken place on the account from the date of opening the account to the end of the calendar year;
  • an unsuccessful candidate at a Dáil, Seanad or European election must furnish a Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from the financial institution with the Donation Statement he / she is required to furnish within 56 days of polling day at the election. The Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from the financial institution are completed in respect of the period from the date of opening the account up until polling day at the election;
  • the election agent of a candidate at a presidential election must furnish a Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from the financial institution with the Donation Statement he / she is required to furnish within 56 days of polling day at the election. The Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from the financial institution are completed in respect of the period from the date of opening the account up until polling day at the election. If the candidate was also required to open a Political Donations Account (i.e. in respect of donations received by him / her before the appointment of his / her election agent) a separate statement in respect of the candidate's account must be furnished by the election agent. The Certificate of Monetary Donations is completed by the election agent in respect of both the candidate's and the election agent's Political Donations Accounts;
  • the "responsible person" of a political party or an accounting unit of a political party must furnish a Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from the financial institution by 31st March each year. The Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from the financial institution are completed in respect of the previous calendar year. If the account was opened during the year, the statement must specify the transactions which have taken place on the account from the date of opening the account to the end of the calendar year. (A branch or subsidiary organisation which receives a donation exceeding €126.97 in value is defined in the Electoral Acts as an "accounting unit". Details of the accounting unit and its responsible person are required to be notified to the Standards Commission by the party's "appropriate officer") ;
  • the "responsible person" of a third party (see section 3.1E below for a definition of a "third party") must furnish a Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from the financial institution by 31st March each year. The Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from the financial institution are completed in respect of the previous calendar year. If the account was opened during the year, the statement must specify the transactions which have taken place on the account from the date of opening the account to the end of the calendar year.

It should be noted that the Electoral Acts provide that the Standards Commission shall retain the statements from financial institutions, Certificates of Monetary Donations and Statutory Declarations furnished to it, and shall not disclose the contents thereof unless ordered by a Court to do so, or except when such disclosure is required in connection with an investigation held by the Standards Commission.

The practice and procedures of the Standards Commission in relation to the receipt of Certificate of Monetary Donations forms and statements from financial institutions are set out in section 3.2C below.

C.  Prohibited donations

i) Anonymous donations

The Electoral Acts provide that a political party, a third party, a Member, an MEP, a candidate at a Dáil, Seanad or European election or a candidate or his / her election agent at a presidential election may not accept an anonymous donation exceeding €126.97 in value.

If such a donation is received, the Standards Commission must be notified within 14 days and the donation, or the value thereof, must be remitted to the Standards Commission.

The Standards Commission is required to lay a copy of each notification of an anonymous donation before the Houses of the Oireachtas and to dispose of the donation in the manner directed by the Minister for Finance.


ii) A donation from an individual making multiple donations who does not intend to comply with the provisions of section 24(1A) of the Electoral Acts

A member of a political party may not accept a donation from an individual if he / she knows, or has reason to believe, that the individual making the donation is required to furnish a Donation Statement under section 24(1A) of the Electoral Acts (as described in section 3.1A above) and does not intend to do so.

Where such a donation is received, the Standards Commission must be notified within 14 days and the name and address of the donor provided. The donation, or the value thereof, must also be remitted to the Standards Commission within that time.

The Standards Commission is required to lay a copy of any such notification before the Houses of the Oireachtas and to dispose of the donation a manner directed by the Minister for Finance.


iii) Donations in excess of the prescribed limit

A Member, an MEP, a candidate at a Dáil, Seanad or European election, or a candidate at a presidential election or his / her election agent may not accept a donation from the same person in a particular year which exceeds €2,539.48 in value.

A similar prohibition exists for political parties and third parties in the case of a donation exceeding €6,348.69 in value.

The maximum prescribed limit of €2,539,48 does not apply to a donation of a constituency office to a Member, MEP or candidate. (Where more than one constituency office is donated the Member, MEP or candidate must nominate whichever office the maximum prescribed limit shall not apply to.) The maximum prescribed limit of €6,348.69 does apply to a donation of a constituency office to a political party or third party.


iv) Foreign donations

A Member, an MEP, a political party or any branch of a political party, a third party, a candidate at a Dáil, Seanad or European election, or a candidate at a presidential election or his / her election agent may not accept a donation, of any value, from an individual (other than an Irish citizen) who resides outside of the island of Ireland. Neither must a donation, of any value, be accepted from a body corporate or an unincorporated body of persons which does not keep an office in the island of Ireland from which at least one of its principal activities is directed. Such donations are referred to hereafter as "foreign donations".

Where a foreign donation or a donation in excess of the maximum prescribed limit is received, the recipient must, within 14 days, either return the donation to the donor and keep a written record of its return (for the purpose of its being furnished to the Standards Commission if required by it) or must notify the Standards Commission and remit the donation, or the value thereof, to the Standards Commission. In the case of a monetary donation which exceeds the maximum prescribed limit, the excess amount only must be returned to the donor or remitted to the Standards Commission.


D. Offences and Penalties

The Electoral Acts provide for a number of offences and associated penalties for failure to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Acts regarding the acceptance and disclosure of donations. The relevant offences and penalties are as follows:

  • Failure to notify or remit an anonymous donation to the Standards Commission may result in a fine of up to €1,269.74.
  • Knowingly accepting a prohibited donation from an individual making multiple donations may result in a fine of up to €1,269.74.
  • Failure to notify the Standards Commission of, or remit, as appropriate, to the Standards Commission, or return, as appropriate, to the donor, a foreign donation or a donation in excess of the maximum prescribed limit, may result in a fine of up to €1,269.74.
  • Failure to furnish to the Standards Commission a Donation Statement, or if required to, a Certificate of Monetary Donations form and a statement from the financial institution in which a political donations account is held, within the relevant statutory deadline may result in a fine of up to €1,269.74. In addition, there is the possibility of an on-going fine of up to €126.97 per day for each day, after a conviction, on which the Donation Statement and / or the accompanying documentation are still outstanding.
  • Knowingly furnishing to the Standards Commission a Donation Statement or Statutory Declaration, a Certificate of Monetary Donations form or a statement from the financial institution in which a political donations account is held, which is false or misleading may result in a fine of up to €25,394.76 and/or up to 3 years imprisonment.
  • Failure by a company, trade union, etc., to fail to comply with the provisions of section 26 may result in a fine of up to €1,269.74. Where the offence is proved to have been committed with the consent of, or to be attributable to, any neglect on the part of any person being a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of a body corporate, or a person purporting to act in any such capacity, that person as well as the body corporate will be deemed to be guilty of that offence.

All of the above offences are prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Standards Commission has been advised by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to forward reports of any such offences directly to An Gardaí.


E. Requirements of the legislation regarding third parties

The Electoral Acts define "a third party" as any individual or group, other than a registered political party or candidate at an election, who or which accepts, in a particular calendar year, a donation for political purposes, which exceeds €126.97 in value.

A third party must, on receipt of such a donation, and before incurring any expenses for political purposes (or, as the case may be, any further such expenses), register with the Standards Commission by furnishing the following information:

  • the name and address of the third party and the name and address of the person responsible for it's organisation, management or financial affairs ("responsible person");
  • a statement of the nature, purpose and estimated amount of donations to, and proposed expenses of, the third party during the year;
  • an indication of any connection the third party may have with any political party or candidate at an election or referendum or otherwise.

Having registered as a third party, the individual / group must comply with the provisions of the Electoral Acts applicable to third parties. This includes the requirement to open a Political Donations Account if a monetary donation exceeding €126.97 is received and to furnish the necessary returns to the Standards Commission relating to that account. The individual / group must also comply with the provisions of the Electoral Acts concerning the treatment of prohibited donations (see section 3.1C above).

Additional obligations apply if a third party proposes to incur expenses at a Dáil, European or presidential election to promote or oppose a candidate or political party or to otherwise seek to influence the outcome of the election (see section 3.1F(iii) below).

F.  Limitation and Disclosure of Election Expenses

"Election expenses" are defined in the Electoral Acts as expenses incurred for electoral purposes on the provision of property, goods or services for use at an election during the election period in order to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the interests of a candidate, a political party or a political group at an election or to otherwise influence the outcome of an election. Election expenses include benefits-in-kind and expenses incurred where the costs have been met from public funds.

The Schedule to the Electoral Acts sets out the actual matters, which, when used in accordance with the above definition, constitute election expenses (these matters are provided at Appendix 9 to this manual). The Schedule also sets out a number of items which shall not be regarded as election expenses.

i) Expenditure Limits

The Electoral Acts provide maximum limits for the amount of expenditure which may be incurred on behalf of a candidate at a Dáil election. The Electoral Acts also provide that expenditure limits at European and presidential elections may be prescribed by Order of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. (The Electoral Acts make no provision for the limitation, disclosure or reimbursement of election expenses at Seanad elections.) Expenditure limits at Dáil, European or presidential elections may be increased by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in line with changes in the Consumer Price Index. The expenditure limits which currently apply are as follows:

Type of ElectionExpenditure Limit per candidate
Dáil election - 3 seat constituency€25,394.76
Dáil election - 4 seat constituency€31,743.45
Dáil election - 5 seat constituency€38,092.14
European election-all constituencies€230,000
Presidential election€1,300,000

At a Dáil or European election, a candidate's political party may incur up to 100% of the expenditure limit which he / she is entitled to incur at the election. The Electoral Acts do not provide for the incurring of election expenditure by a political party at a presidential election. Expenditure incurred by a political party on behalf of a candidate at a presidential election must be authorised and accounted for by the candidate's election agent. The amount of the statutory expenditure limit assigned by a candidate for spending by a political party must be agreed in writing between the candidate and the party. Expenditure incurred by a candidate and his / her political party together may not exceed the statutory expenditure limit applying to the candidate at the election. Total expenditure incurred by a political party may not exceed the sum of the amounts assigned to the party by its candidates.

ii) Appointment of agents

Each candidate at a Dáil, European or presidential election is required to appoint an election agent for the purposes of incurring expenditure and making payments on the candidate's behalf (a candidate may act as his / her own election agent). The appointment must be notified to the Returning Officer for the election before the latest time for withdrawal of candidature at the election. If an election agent has not been appointed by this time, the candidate is deemed to be acting as his / her own election agent.

Each political party contesting a Dáil or European election must appoint a national agent for the purposes of incurring expenditure and making payments on the party's behalf. This appointment must be notified to the Standards Commission before the latest time for withdrawal of candidature at the election. If a national agent has not been appointed, the party's appropriate officer (or leader of the party, if no appropriate officer stands appointed) is deemed to be the national agent. The Standards Commission is required to publish details of national agents appointed at Dáil and European elections in Iris Oifigiúil.

Election agents and national agents may authorise in writing other persons (including the candidate) to incur expenditure, within specified limits, on their behalf at the election. Election agents and national agents must account for expenditure incurred by authorised persons in their Election Expenses Statement.

iii) "Other persons"

Section 31(7) of the Electoral Acts (section 51(6) in the cases of a presidential election) also provide that "other persons" who have not been authorised by a candidate's election agent or a party's national agent may incur expenditure at a Dáil, European or presidential election. In order to do so, the person (which may be an individual or a group) must provide the following information to the Standards Commission before incurring any election expenses:

  1. name, address and description of the person proposing to incur the election expenses;
  2. a statement of the nature, purpose and estimated amount of the expenses; and
  3. an indication of the person's connection, if any, with any candidate or political party at the election.

On receipt of such information, the Standards Commission may consider that the individual / group is connected to a particular candidate or political party contesting the election. In such circumstances the expenditure incurred by the individual / group will be subject to the expenditure limits applying to the candidate or political party at the election and will have to be accounted for, as appropriate, by the candidate's election agent or the party's national agent. Where the Standards Commission considers that the "other person" is not connected to any candidate or political party contesting the election, the "other person" will be required to furnish an Election Expenses Statement to the Standards Commission.

iv) Publishers of newspapers, magazines etc.

Section 31(10) of the Electoral Acts (section 52(9) in the case of a presidential election) provides that the publisher of a newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication may not publish any advertisement or notice which promotes or opposes the interests of a candidate or political party at an election unless requested to do so by either a candidate, a candidate's election agent, a political party's national agent, a person authorised in writing by either agent or an "other person" who can produce a certificate from the Standards Commission certifying that it has been notified (in accordance with section 31(7) or section 52(6) of the Electoral Acts as appropriate) of the person's intention to incur election expenses.

v) Election Expenses Statements

All election expenses incurred on goods, property or services which are used during the election period at a Dáil, European or presidential election must be accounted for in an Election Expenses Statement which is furnished to the Standards Commission. Expenses incurred on property, goods or services which were not used during the election period are not accounted for. The election period at a Dáil general election is from the date of the dissolution of the Dáil until polling day, both dates included. At a Dáil by-election, the election period is from the date of the issue of the writ until polling day, both dates included. In the case of European and presidential elections, the election period is from the date of the order appointing polling day up until polling day itself, both dates included.

An Election Expenses Statement must be furnished to the Standards Commission within 56 days of polling day by a candidate's election agent, the national agent of a political party or by any "other persons" which incurred election expenses at an election. The Election Expenses Statement is accompanied by a Statutory Declaration on which the person furnishing the Statement, certifies that the information provided on the Election Expenses Statement is, to the best of his / her knowledge and belief, correct in every material respect. The Statutory Declaration must be witnessed by either a practising solicitor, peace commissioner, commissioner for oaths or notary public.

The Electoral Acts provide that claims for payment of an election expense must be submitted to an election agent or national agent within 45 days of polling day. A claim submitted after this time may not be paid by the agent concerned. The expenses incurred, however, are subject to the expenditure limit applying to the candidate or party and must be accounted for in the Election Expenses Statement submitted by the candidate's election agent or the party's national agent.

Details of any disputed claims relating to expenditure incurred at the election must also be included on an Election Expenses Statement. Where there are disputed election expenses included on an Election Expenses Statement, the Standards Commission must be informed of the amount agreed as payable by the election agent / national agent if and when the dispute is settled.

Receipts, invoices or vouchers for every payment of an expense exceeding €126.97 must be furnished with the Election Expenses Statement. The Standards Commission may request election agents and national agents to furnish samples of election material used.

G.  Offences and Penalties

The Electoral Acts provide for a number of offences and penalties in relation to the incurring and disclosure of election expenses, as follows:

  • Failure by an "other person" to notify the Standards Commission of an intent to incur election expenses can incur a fine of up to €1,269.74.
  • If a person who is not authorised to do so incurs expenditure or makes a payment in relation to an election, he or she, on conviction, can be fined up to €1,269.74.
  • Failure by the publisher of a newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication to comply with the provisions of section 31(10) or 52(9) of the Electoral Acts may result in a fine of up to €1,269.74.
  • The penalty, if an election agent or national agent is found guilty of the offence of breaching the expenditure limit, is a fine of up to €1,269.74.
  • Payment of claims received more than 45 days after polling day can result in a fine of up to €1,269.74.
  • Failure to make such enquiries and maintain such records as are necessary for the purpose of furnishing an Election Expenses Statement and making a Statutory Declaration may result in a fine of up to €1,269.74.
  • Failure to furnish an Election Expenses Statement form to the Standards Commission by the statutory deadline can result in a fine of up to €1,269.74 and an on-going fine of up to €126.97 for each day, after a conviction, on which the Election Expenses Statement form is outstanding.
  • Knowingly furnishing a false or misleading Election Expenses Statement to the Standards Commission can result in a fine of up to €25,394.76 and/or up to three years imprisonment.

All of the above offences are prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Standards Commission has been advised by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to forward reports of any such offences directly to An Gardaí.

H.  Reimbursement of Election Expenses

The Electoral Acts provide for the reimbursement of election expenses incurred by qualified candidates at Dáil elections. The Electoral Acts also provide that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government may make regulations providing for the reimbursement of election expenses incurred by qualified candidates at European and at presidential elections.

A candidate at a Dáil, European or presidential election may qualify for a reimbursement of his / her election expenses if he / she is either:

  1. elected at the election; or
  2. is unsuccessful at the election, but, at any stage of the counting of votes, received in excess of one quarter of the quota for the constituency.

In the case of a Dáil by-election, a candidate is qualified for a reimbursement if he / she is elected or receives, at any stage of the counting of the votes, one quarter of what would have been the quota for the constituency had the by-election been a general election.

The amounts which may be reimbursed to qualified candidates may be increased by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in line with changes in the Consumer Price Index. The reimbursement amounts which currently apply are as follows:

  • the lesser of €6,348.69 or the actual expenses incurred on a candidate at a Dáil election
  • the lesser of €38,092.14 or the actual expenses incurred on a candidate at a European election
  • the lesser of €260,000 or the actual expenses incurred on a candidate at a presidential election.

Expenditure incurred by a political party in a constituency on behalf of a candidate at a Dáil or European election may be taken into account for the purposes of calculating the amount which may be reimbursed.

The reimbursement amount in each case is inclusive of Value Added Tax and is not liable to income tax. The reimbursement is made to the candidate. It is a matter for the candidate to then reimburse any expenses incurred on his / her behalf to his / her political party.

I.  Exchequer funding of qualified political parties

The Electoral Acts provide for the Exchequer funding of qualified parties. A "qualified party" is a political party which is registered in the Register of Political Parties compiled by the Clerk of Dáil Éireann and whose candidates at the preceding Dáil general election received a combined first preference vote which was not less than 2% of the total first preference vote received by all candidates at the election.

Each qualified party receives an amount of €126,973 annually, plus a proportion of a fund, which was originally set at €3,809,214.20 per annum and which increases in line with general pay increases in the civil service. The amounts payable to each qualified political party from the fund is also based on the party's performance at the last general election. The proportion due to each qualified party is calculated by reference to the first preference votes received by the party's candidates expressed as a percentage of the total first preference votes received by candidates of all qualified parties. Payments are made on a quarterly basis, in arrears, by the Minister for Finance.

The funds received by a qualified party must be applied to the "general conduct and management of the party's affairs and the lawful pursuit by it of any of its objectives and, without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, any or all of the following purposes:"

  • general administration;
  • research, education and training;
  • policy formulation;
  • co-ordination of the activities of the branches and members of the party.

Payments made to a qualified party are also deemed to include provision in respect of expenditure by the party on the promotion of participation by women and by young persons in political activity.

Exchequer funding provided under the Electoral Acts may not be used by qualified parties to recoup election or referendum expenses.

The appropriate officer of each qualified party is required, annually, to furnish to the Standards Commission a Statement of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding received under the Electoral Acts. When furnishing the Statement the appropriate officer is required to confirm that the payments made in respect of the year in question were applied to some or all of the purposes provided for in the legislation (above) and to indicate the actual matters to which the payments were applied. The Electoral Acts provide that the Statement must be audited by a public auditor. The auditor's report must also be furnished to the Standards Commission.

3.2 Functions of the Standards Commission under the Electoral Acts and administrative actions taken by it in the performance of those functions - Sections A - H

The functions and supervisory role of the Standards Commission under the Electoral Acts are set out in this section together with the administrative practices and procedures used by the Standards Commission in carrying out its functions. Primarily these functions concern:

  • the disclosure of donations received;
  • the return or remittance of prohibited donations;
  • the opening and maintenance of political donations accounts;
  • the disclosure (under section 24(1A) of the Electoral Acts) of donations made by individual donors;
  • the disclosure (under section 26 of the Electoral Acts) of donations made by companies, trades unions etc.
  • compliance with the Electoral Acts by third parties;
  • compliance with the Electoral Acts by accounting units of political parties;
  • the limitation and disclosure of election expenses at Dáil, European and presidential elections;
  • the reimbursement of election expenses to qualified candidates at Dáil, European and presidential elections;
  • reporting of expenditure of exchequer funding by qualified political parties;
  • provision of guidelines and advice to persons to whom the provisions of the Electoral Acts apply;
  • disclosure of information contained in statutory documentation furnished to the Standards Commission under the Electoral Acts; and
  • conducting enquiries concerning possible contraventions of the Electoral Acts.


A.  Practice and procedure in relation to the receipt of Donation Statements

Where a person is required to furnish a Donation Statement (i.e. Member, MEP, appropriate officer, unsuccessful candidate or presidential election agent as the case may be) the Standards Commission will write to the person and inform him / her of his / her requirements under the Electoral Acts. This letter normally issues approximately four weeks in advance of the statutory deadline date in the case of annual returns and as soon as possible after polling date where elections are concerned. A blank Donation Statement form is enclosed with the letter.

The Standards Commission acknowledges receipt of each Donation Statement form. The Donation Statement is checked to ensure that it has been completed correctly and, in particular, that the statutory declaration has been correctly signed and witnessed.

The Standards Commission has adopted a Statement of Practice in relation to the processing of Donation Statements at Dáil and European elections. This Statement of Practice is attached at Appendix 8 of this Manual. Similar procedures as are outlined in the Statement of Practice are applied to the processing of Donation Statements due annually and to the processing of Donation Statements at presidential elections.

The Standards Commission maintains a physical file relating to each person who is required to furnish a Donation Statement. Records of correspondence with or relating to the person and original copies of the statutory documentation furnished are retained on these files. The Standards Commission also maintains an electronic database on which correspondence with or relating to the person is recorded.

B. Practice and procedure in relation to prohibited donations

Anonymous donations and donations from a multiple donor which are prohibited

Where the Standards Commission is informed of the receipt of an anonymous donation or a prohibited donation from an individual making multiple donations, it will lay the notification before the Houses of the Oireachtas in accordance with section 23(3) or 24A(4)(a) of the Electoral Acts as appropriate. If the donation or the value thereof, has not been remitted to the Standards Commission, it will request the recipient of the donation to do so immediately. Once the donation (or value thereof) has been remitted, the Standards Commission will notify the Dept. of Finance and request directions as to the disposal of the donation.

Foreign donations

Where a donation is disclosed on a Donation Statement from a donor who is not resident in the island of Ireland and it is not indicated on the Donation Statement that the donor is an Irish citizen, the Standards Commission will request the person furnishing the Donation Statement to confirm that the person is an Irish Citizen. Normally the Standards Commission accepts the recipient's confirmation that the donor is an Irish citizen. The Standards Commission may, however, look for proof of a donor's citizenship.

Where the Standards Commission identifies or is notified of the receipt of a prohibited foreign donation it will request the recipient to remit the donation or the value thereof to the Standards Commission or alternatively, to provide evidence that the donation was returned to the donor.

Donations in excess of the maximum prescribed limit

Where a donation is disclosed on a Donation Statement which is in excess of the maximum prescribed limit, the Standards Commission will request the person furnishing the statement to provide evidence that the excess donation was returned to the donor or alternatively, to remit the excess amount to the Standards Commission.

The Electoral Acts make no provision for laying notifications of foreign donations or donations in excess of the maximum prescribed limit before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Such notifications are not, therefore, laid by the Standards Commission before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Details of such notifications, however, are normally included in the relevant report by the Standards Commission to the Ceann Comhairle. Such reports are laid before the Houses of the Oireacthas and are published by the Standards Commission.

Similarly the Electoral Acts do not provide for the disposal of foreign donations or donations in excess of the maximum prescribed limit which are remitted to the Standards Commission. Where a foreign or excess donation is remitted, the Standards Commission will seek direction from the Department of Finance as to the disposal of the donation.

The Electoral Acts provide that prohibited donations must be returned to the donor or remitted to the Standards Commission within 14 days of receipt. Failure to do so is an offence. It is the practice of the Standards Commission not to seek a prosecution for such offences where the person has otherwise complied with the provisions of the legislation i.e. by returning the donation or remitting it to the Standards Commission.

C.  Practice and procedure in relation to the opening and maintenance of Political Donations Accounts

Where a person is required to furnish a Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from a financial institution the Standards Commission Secretariat will write to the person and inform him / her of his / her requirements under the Electoral Acts. This letter normally issues approximately four weeks in advance of the statutory deadline date in the case of annual returns and as soon as possible after polling date where elections are concerned. A blank Certificate of Monetary Donations form is enclosed with the letter. (Where the person is also required to furnish a Donation Statement a single letter enclosing both forms issues.)

Where a political donations account has been opened and the account has not been active (i.e. there have been no deposits to or withdrawals from the account) during the relevant period, the Standards Commission requests that the person confirm this on the Certificate of Monetary Donations form. In such circumstances, the person is not required to complete the Statutory Declaration or to furnish a statement from the financial institution in which the political donations account is held.

The Standards Commission acknowledges receipt of each Certificate of Monetary Donations form and statement from a financial institution. The Certificate of Monetary Donations form is checked to ensure that it has been completed correctly and, in particular, that the statutory declaration, where required to, has been correctly signed and witnessed. The statement from the financial institution is checked to ensure that it covers the relevant period (see bullet paragraphs in section 3.1B).

Where a Certificate of Monetary Donations form and statement from a financial institution is required and has not been received, the Standards Commission will issue a formal reminder to the person required to make the return. The reminder, which will issue on the 7th day after the statutory deadline will draw attention to the offence / penalty for failing to return the relevant form.

Fourteen days after the relevant statutory deadline, the Standards Commission will issue a second reminder to any person from whom a Certificate of Monetary Donations form and statement from a financial institution is required and has not been received.

If a Certificate of Monetary Donations form and statement from a financial institution is still outstanding 21 days after the statutory deadline, the Standards Commission will issue a final reminder to the person concerned. This reminder will again draw attention to the offence / penalty for failing to return the relevant form and will advise the person that failure to make the necessary return within seven days of this reminder may result in a referral of the matter to the Gardaí.

If a Certificate of Monetary Donations form and statement from a financial institution has not been received 28 days after the statutory deadline, the Standards Commission will consider whether or not to refer the matter to the Gardaí.

If, following a referral of the matter to the Gardaí, the Standards Commission receives a Certificate of Monetary Donations form and statement from a financial institution from the person concerned, it will notify the Gardaí accordingly. It will be a matter for the Gardaí to decide whether to proceed with the investigation of the offence of failure to furnish a Certificate of Monetary Donations form and statement from a financial institution by the statutory deadline.

It should be noted that referrals to the Gardaí are mentioned in reports which the Standards Commission furnishes to the Ceann Comhairle. The Standards Commission may also include in its report details of persons who failed to furnish a Certificate of Monetary Donations form and statement from a financial institution by the statutory deadline together with the date on which the statement was subsequently received.

The Standards Commission maintains a physical file relating to each person / body who is required to furnish a Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from a financial institution. Where the person is also required to furnish a Donation Statement a single file is maintained in respect of both returns. Records of correspondence with the person / body and original copies of the statutory documentation furnished are retained on these files. The Standards Commission also maintains an electronic database on which correspondence with or relating to the person / body is recorded.

D.  Practice and procedure in relation to the disclosure, under section 24(1A) of the Electoral Acts, of donations made by individual donors

The Standards Commission publishes a public notice annually in national newspapers highlighting the requirements of section 24(1A) of the Electoral Acts. A detailed explanatory note regarding the requirements of section 24(1A) is published on the website of the Standards Commission. A hard copy of the explanatory note is available on request from the Secretariat.

The Standards Commission monitors Donation Statements received from political parties and from Members, MEP's and election candidates, to identify individuals who may have made multiple donations exceeding €5,078.95 to a political party and / or one of more of its members.

Where a section 24(1A) donor is notified to the Standards Commission or otherwise identified, the Standards Commission will write to the donor, advising him / her of his / her requirements under the Electoral Acts. A Donation Statement form for completion will also be provided.

If the person is notified / identified to the Standards Commission in advance of the statutory deadline of 31 January, the person will be required to furnish his / her Donation Statement by this date. If the person is notified / identified to the Standards Commission after this date, he / she will be given a reasonable period of time (usually 14 days) in which to furnish the Donation Statement. If the Donation Statement is not received, a series of reminders will issue. These reminders will refer to the offence and penalty for failure to furnish a Donation Statement. If the Donation Statement has not been received within 7 days of a third reminder having issued the Standards Commission will consider referring the matter to the Gardaí.

Details of the donations made by the person may be contained in a report by the Standards Commission to the Ceann Comhairle and will be published on the website of the Standards Commission.

The Standards Commission maintains a physical file relating to each donor who is required to furnish a Donation Statement. Records of correspondence with or relating to the person and original copies of the statutory documentation furnished are retained on these files. The Standards Commission also maintains an electronic database on which correspondence with or relating to the person is recorded.

E.  Practice and procedure in relation to the disclosure in annual accounts / annual returns of donations made by companies, trades unions etc.

Each year the Standards Commission published a public notice in the national newspapers notifying companies, trades unions etc. of the requirements of section 26 of the Electoral Acts. A detailed explanatory note regarding the requirements of section 26 is also published on the website of the Standards Commission. A hard copy of the explanatory note is available on request from the Secretariat.

The Standards Commission also writes to a broad range of representative bodies (e.g. IBEC, ICTU) enclosing a copy of its explanatory note and requesting them to inform their members of the requirements of section 26. The Standards Commission also writes directly to companies or bodies that it has identified as having made donations exceeding €5,078.95. It is also the practice of the Standards Commission to check with the Companies Registration Office that such companies have included relevant donation details in their returns to that office.

The Standards Commission maintains a physical file on which correspondence with companies, trades unions or representative bodies regarding section 26 of the Electoral Acts is held. The Standards Commission also maintains an electronic database on which such correspondence is recorded.

F. Practice and procedure in relation to accounting units:

The provisions of the Acts in relation to accounting units came into effect on 01 January 2002. The first returns were due by 31 March, 2003, which were in respect of 2002. The Electoral Acts provide that the appropriate officer of each political party must notify the Standards Commission of the name and address of each accounting unit of the party, including the name of the responsible person of the accounting unit. The Standards Commission writes each year to the appropriate officers of each political party requesting them to confirm the status of the accounting units previously notified and to provide details of any new accounting units.

The Standards Commission writes to the responsible person of each accounting unit which has been notified to it, advising him / her of the requirements of the legislation and enclosing a Certificate of Monetary Donations for completion and return. This letter issues well in advance of the 31 March deadline.

Where a Certificate of Monetary Donations and statement from a financial institution is received, the Standards Commission issues an immediate acknowledgement to the responsible person of the accounting unit.

The Standards Commission maintains a physical file relating to each accounting unit notified to it. Records of correspondence with or relating to the accounting unit and the statutory documentation furnished are retained on these files. The Standards Commission also maintains an electronic database on which correspondence with or relating to an accounting unit is recorded.

G.  Practice and procedure in relation to third parties

The Standards Commission places an advertisement annually in national newspapers, highlighting the provisions of the legislation in relation to third parties. A detailed explanatory note regarding the requirements attaching to third parties is published on the website of the Standards Commission. A hard copy of the explanatory note is available on request from the Secretariat.

The Standards Commission also writes to any individuals / groups of which it is aware, from media coverage or otherwise, may be engaged in activities which are subject to the provisions of the legislation relating to third parties ("potential third parties"). A copy of its explanatory note is enclosed with the letter. The individual / group is requested to consider whether it is required to register as a "third party".

If an individual / group does not reply or indicates that it is not required to register as a third party no further action is taken in relation to the individual / group. However, in the latter case, the Standards Commission will pursue the matter with the individual / group concerned if it has evidence to the contrary.

Where an individual / group has registered as a "third party" the Standards Commission writes to its responsible person each year in advance of the 31 March deadline and provides him / her with a Certificate of Monetary Donations for completion. The Standards Commission also includes a separate form, devised in order that third parties which have not been active during the previous calendar year can advise the office accordingly without having to complete the Certificate of Monetary Donations and Statutory Declaration.

The Standards Commission maintains a physical file relating to each registered third party. Records of correspondence with or relating to the third party and the statutory documentation furnished are retained on this file. The Standards Commission also maintains an electronic database on which correspondence with or relating to a third party is recorded.

The Standards Commission also maintains a physical file relating to each potential third party. Records of correspondence with or relating to the individual / group are retained on this file. The Standards Commission also maintains an electronic database on which correspondence with or relating to a potential third party is recorded.

H. Practice and procedure in relation to supervision of the limitation and disclosure of election expenses at Dáil, European and Presidential elections

i) Practices and procedures used by the Standards Commission before and during an election

The Standards Commission produces guidelines for each Dáil, European and presidential election. The guidelines concern the acceptance and disclosure of donations, and the limitation, disclosure and reimbursement of election expenditure. The guidelines are issued to candidates, election agents and the national agents of political parties with candidates contesting an election.

The Standards Commission issues a public notice in a wide circulation of national and provincial newspapers highlighting the requirements of the legislation which will apply to "third parties" and "other persons" at the election. A detailed explanatory note regarding these requirements is published on the website of the Standards Commission. A hard copy of the explanatory note is available on request from the Secretariat. Where "third parties" or "other persons" are identified to the Standards Commission they are issued with a copy of the Standards Commission's explanatory note or, if it is considered appropriate, a copy of the Standards Commission's guidelines for the election.

In addition to providing guidelines at elections, the Standards Commission also provides specific advice to individual candidates, their election agents, the national agents of political parties and to "third parties" and "other persons".

The Standards Commission also writes to the publishers and advertising managers of newspapers, magazines and periodical publications as it considers appropriate, to inform them of the requirements of section 31(10) of the Electoral Acts (or section 52(9) in the case of a presidential election).

Returning Officers at Dáil, European and presidential elections are required to notify the Standards Commission of the name of each candidate contesting the election in their constituency and the name and office address of each election agent appointed. The Standards Commission liaises with Returning Officers to ensure that this information is provided as soon as possible.

The Standards Commission is required under the Electoral Acts to publish in Iris Oifigiúil the name and office address of each person appointed, or deemed to be appointed, as national agent of a political party for a Dáil or European election.

During the course of an election campaign, staff of the Secretariat make constituency visits where they meet with candidates, election agents and the national agents of political parties to provide advice in relation to specific issues. Constituency visits are also used as an opportunity to monitor expenditure at an election through general observation of postering, advertising etc. and by obtaining samples of posters and election literature.

During the election period, the Standards Commission monitors newspaper advertising by candidates and political parties. This is to ensure that all such advertising is properly accounted for by election agents and national agents in their Election Expenses Statements. It is also to ensure that advertisements have not been taken out by individuals / groups who have not complied with the provisions of sections 31(7) of 52(6) of the Electoral Acts as appropriate (see para 3.1F(iii)) and that publishers of newspapers, magazines etc have not contravened the provisions of sections 31(10) or 52(9) as appropriate by accepting such advertisements.

ii) Practices and procedures used by the Standards Commission with regard to the receipt of Election Expenses Statements

The Standards Commission produces an Election Expenses Statement form for the purposes of accounting for election expenses. (A sample Election Expenses Statement form is provided at Appendix 10 of this manual.) Shortly after polling day at an election the Standards Commission Secretariat writes to each person who is required to furnish an Election Expenses Statement enclosing the relevant form for completion. Staff of the Secretariat are available to provide advice to, or if necessary, to meet with election agents or national agents after the election to assist in the completion of their Election Expenses Statements.

The Standards Commission acknowledges receipt of each Election Expenses Statement form received. Each statement is checked to ensure that it has been correctly completed and that the Statutory Declaration is correctly signed and witnessed. The Standards Commission checks information provided on an election agent's Election Expenses Statement with relevant information provided on the Election Expenses Statement submitted by the party's national agent and by the election agents of any "running mates" of the candidate in the constituency. Relevant details provided by a candidate on his / her Donation Statement and information obtained by representatives of the Standards Commission while monitoring expenditure at the election may also be referenced when checking an Election Expenses Statement form.

Information contained in the Election Expenses Statement is also checked against invoices / receipts provided by the agent. Where relevant receipts / invoices have not been provided, the Standards Commission writes to the agent concerned requesting that they be furnished.

A Statement of Practice of the Standards Commission in relation to the processing of Election Expenses Statements at Dáil and European elections is attached at Appendix 8 of this Manual. The procedure is much the same in the case of Election Expenses Statements at presidential elections.

iii) Procedures in relation to an overspend at a Dáil, European or presidential election

If, having reviewed an Election Expenses Statement submitted by an election agent or national agent, the Standards Commission is of the opinion that the agent may have exceeded the expenditure limit available to him / her at an election, it must notify the person concerned that he / she may have contravened the Electoral Acts. The person is given 14 days to furnish any comments he / she may have on the alleged contravention. These comments must be considered by the Standards Commission.

If, having regard to the agent's comments, the Standards Commission continues to be of the opinion that he / she has overspent it must furnish a report on the matter to the Gardaí.

In furnishing its report to the Gardaí, the Standards Commission may include comments furnished to it by the agent concerned. If the Standards Commission is of the opinion that the agent did not knowingly overspend or that the overspend was not material, it will state so in its report. Notwithstanding any views it may have in this regard, the Standards Commission must refer cases of overspending to the prosecuting authorities. It is a matter for the Gardaí and the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether a prosecution of the offence should proceed.

Where an election agent has overspent, the Standards Commission is also required to notify the Minister for Finance that the amount of the overspend should be deducted from any reimbursement due to the candidate.

Where a national agent has overspent, the Standards Commission must notify the Minister for Finance that the amount of the overspend should be deducted from the next payment of any Exchequer funding due to the party under the Electoral Acts.

Where there has been an overspend, a person may also petition the High Court to set aside the result of the election. The Standards Commission has no function in this regard.

iv) Practice and procedures in relation to contraventions of sections 31(7) or 52(6) of the Electoral Acts by "other persons".

Where the Standards Commission becomes aware that a person may have contravened the provisions of section 31(7) or 52(6) (see para 3.1F(iii) above) it will write to the individual / group concerned informing them of the requirements of the Electoral Acts and seeking an explanation as to why the individual / group did not comply with these provisions. If the Standards Commission considers that the individual / group is connected to a particular candidate or political party contesting the election it may request the candidate's election agent or the party's national agent to account for the expenditure. If, however, the relevant agent refuses to account for the expenditure on the basis that he / she did not authorise the individual / group to incur such expenditure the Standards Commission may consider that the individual / group may have committed an offence and refer the matter to An Gardaí.

Where the Standards Commission considers that the individual / group is not connected to any candidate or political party contesting the election, it will request the individual to furnish an Election Expenses Statement to the Standards Commission. In such circumstances it is not the practice of the Standards Commission to seek a prosecution for this offence where an individual / group otherwise complies with the provisions of the legislation by furnishing an Election Expenses Statement form. If the individual / group refuses to furnish an Election Expenses Statement, the Standards Commission may consider that the individual / group has committed an offence and refer the matter to An Gardaí.

v) Practice and procedures in relation to contraventions of sections 31(10) or 52(9) of the Electoral Acts by publishers of newspapers, magazines etc.

Where the Standards Commission considers that the publisher of a newspaper, magazine etc. may have contravened the provisions of sections 31(10) or 52(9) by publishing an advertisement which was not properly authorised, it will write to the publisher concerned and seek an explanation as to why he / she contravened the provisions of the legislation. If the Standards Commission is satisfied that a publisher has not intentionally contravened the provisions of section 31(10) or 52(9), and that procedures have been put in place to ensure that the circumstances which gave rise to the advertisements being published without proper authority do not occur again it may decide not to take any further action in terms of a referral of either matter to the Gardaí.

vi) Records held in relation to Election Expenses Statements

The Standards Commission maintains a physical file for each person required to furnish an Election Expenses Statement. Records of correspondence with or relating to the person and original copies of the Election Expenses Statements and supporting documentation furnished are retained on these files.

The Standards Commission also maintains an electronic database on which correspondence with candidates, election agents, national agents and "other persons" is recorded. Details of donations disclosed by unsuccessful candidates, election expenses incurred by election agents, national agents and other persons and reimbursements made to qualified candidates are also held on this database.

The Standards Commission also maintains a number of general correspondence paper files relating to each election. These files normally relate to the production of guidelines, public notices and explanatory notes for elections, the preparation of its report on the election and correspondence with the publishers of newspapers, magazines etc.

vii) Disclosure of information contained in Election Expenses Statements

When finalised, Election Expenses Statements are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Standards Commission also produces a report to the Ceann Comhairle on the election. The Ceann Comhairle is required to lay the report before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The report contains details of the donations disclosed by unsuccessful candidates at the election and details of election expenses incurred by candidate's election agents, the national agents of political parties and by "other persons". The report will also include details of reimbursements due to qualified candidates at the election and details of any contraventions of the legislation. Publication of the report is normally accompanied by a press release from the Standards Commission. Both the report and the press release are published on the website of the Standards Commission. The Election Expenses Statements and accompanying receipts/invoices are retained for public inspection at the offices of the Standards Commission for a period of three years.

3.2 Functions of the Standards Commission under the Electoral Acts and administrative actions taken by it in the performance of those functions - Sections I - M

I. Practice and procedure in relation to reimbursement of candidate's election expenses:

Candidates who qualify for a reimbursement of their election expenses must apply for the reimbursement to the Standards Commission. The Standards Commission produces a form this purpose. (A sample Application for Reimbursement of Election Expenses form can be found at Appendix 11 of this manual).

Reimbursement of election expenses are made by the Department of Finance. Before a payment may be made the Standards Commission must:

  1. certify to the Minister for Finance that an Election Expenses Statement has been received from the candidate's election agent;
  2. certify to the Minister that the election agent's Election Expenses Statement has been completed in accordance with the Standards Commission's guidelines and the relevant provisions of the legislation; and
  3. furnish to the Minister details of the actual expenses incurred by the candidate's election agent and by the national agent of the candidate's political party.

When the Standards Commission is satisfied that all relevant documentation in connection with a person's candidacy at an election has been received (i.e. Donation Statement, Certificate of Monetary Donations, Election Agent's Expenses Statement, National Agent's Election Expenses Statement), it will issue a form for Application for Reimbursement of Election Expenses to the candidate.

There is no statutory deadline for the return of reimbursement applications to the Standards Commission. On receipt of a completed application form the Standards Commission will certify to the Minister for Finance that a reimbursement of election expenses to the candidate is in order, and will furnish the Minister with the details of the expenses incurred on the candidate's behalf. Payments of reimbursements of election expenses are made directly by the Department of Finance to the bank account of the candidate.

Applications for Reimbursement of Election Expenses are not statutory returns and are used for administrative purposes only. They are not required, therefore, to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and are not made available for public display. Details of the reimbursements made to qualified candidates are contained in a report on the election which the Standards Commission furnishes to the Ceann Comhairle. This report is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas by the Ceann Comhairle and is published on the website of the Standards Commission.

Reimbursement applications and related correspondence are retained on individual candidate physical and electronic files.

J. Practice and procedure in relation to Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding

Each year the Department of Finance notifies the Standards Commission of the amount of Exchequer funding which was paid to each qualified political party in respect of the preceding year. At the beginning of March each year the Standards Commission writes to the appropriate officer of each qualified political party enclosing a Statement of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding form (a sample form can be found at Appendix 12 of this manual).

The Electoral Acts do not provide a statutory deadline by which Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding must be provided. There is no offence for failure to furnish a Statement of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding. Payment of Exchequer Funding, however, may not be made to a qualified political party after 30 April in any year unless and until the party's Donation Statement and Statement of Expenditure of Exchequer funding have been received in respect of the previous calendar year and the Standards Commission has notified the Minister for Finance accordingly. The Standards Commission is required to inform the Minister for Finance by 01 May each year whether a Donation Statement and a Statement of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding has been received from each qualified political party. It is also required to furnish the Minister for Finance with a copy of each Statement of Exchequer Funding received. It is required to certify to the Minister that the statements have been completed in accordance with the relevant provisions of the legislation and any guidelines issued by the Standards Commission.

In order to allow the Standards Commission sufficient time to examine the Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding and to notify the Minister for Finance of their receipt by 01 May, appropriate officers are requested to return the completed Statement of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding by 31 March each year (i.e. the statutory deadline for receipt of the party's Donation Statement).

If a Statement of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding has not been received by 31 March, the Standards Commission writes to the appropriate officer notifying him / her of the provisions of the Acts regarding the suspension of payment of Exchequer funding.

The Standards Commission acknowledges receipt of each Statement of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding and accompanying Auditor's report. Each statement is checked to ensure that it has been correctly completed and that the funding has been spent in accordance with the legislation.

Where an error is discovered, the Statement is returned and the appropriate officer afforded an opportunity to amend the statement. If it considers it appropriate to do so, the Standards Commission may also request further clarification in relation to details provided in the Statement. Where a statement has been amended or clarification provided, the Standards Commission may request that the party's auditors verify the amendments / clarification.

When finalised the Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Standards Commission also produces a report to the Ceann Comhairle each year on the receipt of Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding from qualified parties. This report also contains details of donations disclosed by political parties in the preceding year. The Ceann Comhairle is required to lay the report before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The report contains details of the funding received by qualified parties and the matters on which it was spent. Publication of the report is normally accompanied by a press release from the Standards Commission. Both the report and the press release are published on the website of the Standards Commission. The Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding are retained for public inspection at the offices of the Standards Commission for a period of three years.

The Standards Commission also notifies the Minister for Finance of the receipt of the Donation Statements and Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer funding from qualified political parties. The Standards Commission provides a copy of each Statement to the Minister for Finance and certifies that the Statements have been correctly completed in accordance with the legislation and the Standards Commission's guidelines. As the Standards Commission's report is not usually published until the end of May, the Standards Commission writes separately to the Department of Finance in early May advising of the Donation Statements and Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding which have been received, and whether any such statements remain outstanding at that point. Where a Donation Statement or a Statement of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding has not been received by 30 April and the Standards Commission has notified the Department of Finance of this fact, it will inform the Department of Finance if and when the relevant statement is received.

Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding and correspondence with appropriate officers relating to same are retained on individual physical files. The Standards Commission also maintains physical files relating to general correspondence regarding Exchequer funding of qualified political parties and Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding. Correspondence relating to Exchequer funding of qualified political parties and Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding is also maintained on an electronic database.

K. Practice and procedure in relation to the publication of guidelines and the provision of advice under the Electoral Acts

Sections 4(6)(a) and (b) of the Electoral Acts require the Standards Commission to publish guidelines and provide advice to persons to whom the provisions of Parts III, IV, V or VI of the Electoral Acts apply, regarding the steps to be taken by such persons to facilitate compliance with the requirements of the legislation.

The provisions in question relate to:

  • Part III: Exchequer funding of qualified political parties
  • Part IV: The acceptance and disclosure of donations and the opening of political donations accounts;
  • Part V: The limitation, disclosure and reimbursement of election expenses at Dáil and European elections; and
  • Part VI: The acceptance and disclosure of donations, the opening of political donations accounts and the limitation, disclosure and reimbursement of election expenses at presidential elections.

.Persons to whom guidelines are published and advice given include:

  • appropriate officers and national agents of political parties
  • Members and MEPs
  • candidates at Dáil, Seanad, European and presidential elections
  • election agents of candidates at Dáil, European and presidential elections
  • responsible persons of third parties and accounting units of political parties.

Guidelines and advice given by the Standards Commission under the Electoral Acts are statutorily binding i.e. a person must comply with the guidelines / advice given unless by doing so he / she would be contravening another provision of the legislation.

All guidelines published by the Standards Commission under the Acts are already in the public domain and may be accessed without recourse to FOI.

The Standards Commission maintains an electronic client database on which details of enquiries made and advice given are recorded. Routine enquiries (i.e. regarding disclosure dates, disclosure limits, expenditure limits) are normally received by telephone or by email and are answered directly by the Standards Commission Secretariat. If received by telephone, such enquiries are not normally recorded. All replies to e-mail enquiries are saved on both an e-mail and electronic database, and on the relevant physical file.

In accordance with section 4(10) of the Electoral Acts, certain members of the staff of the Standards Commission Secretariat are delegated to provide advice under the Electoral Acts. Where a telephone enquiry is considered to be in the nature of a request for advice within the meaning of the Electoral Acts, the request will be referred to a member of staff who has been delegated to provide such advice. The request and advice given are recorded on the client's physical file and on an electronic database. Where he / she considers it appropriate to do so, a member of the Secretariat may require a person making a telephone enquiry to put submit their request for advice in writing or by e-mail.

Where a specific request for advice under the Electoral Acts is received, the Standards Commission has 21 days to furnish the advice or to notify the person of its decision to decline to furnish advice on the matter. Where a request for advice is made, the provisions of the Electoral Acts relating to the person who made the request shall not apply to that person until such time as the Standards Commission has furnished the advice or notified the person of its decision to decline to furnish advice on the matter. Written or e-mailed requests for advice are always replied to in writing within 21 days. The request and the advice provided are filed on the client's relevant physical file and on an electronic database.

L. Practice and procedure in relation to the disclosure of information contained in statutory documentation received under the Electoral Acts

The Electoral Acts provide that the Standards Commission shall furnish reports to the Chairman of Dáil Éireann, where it considers it appropriate to do so, on any matters relating to statutory returns received by it under the Electoral Acts. Reports furnished by the Standards Commission to the Ceann Comhairle are subsequently laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The Standards Commission is also required to lay copies of statutory documentation received by it before the Houses of the Oireachtas and to make such documentation available for public inspection. The exceptions in this regard are Certificates of Monetary Donations and statements from financial institutions regarding Political Donations Accounts which may not be disclosed save in specific circumstances provided for in the Electoral Acts.

It is the Standards Commission's practice to endeavour to furnish a report to the Chairman of Dáil Éireann and to lay the copies of statutory documentation received by it before the Houses of the Oireachtas within 6 - 8 weeks of the relevant statutory deadline.

The Standards Commission normally prepares a press release to accompany the furnishing of a report to the Chairman of Dáil Éireann. The press release is circulated to the media and other interested parties. The press release and report are also published on the website of the Standards Commission (www.sipo.gov.ie).

Once the statutory documentation has been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas it is made available to the public for inspection and copying at the offices of the Standards Commission. Much of the information contained in the statutory documentation furnished to the Standards Commission is published in summary format on the website of the Standards Commission.

M. Practice and procedure in relation to inquiries concerning possible contraventions of the Electoral Acts:

Under section 4 of the Standards in Public Office Act, 2001 (2001 Act), a person may make a complaint where he / she considers that a specified person may have contravened the provisions of the Electoral Act, 1997 (see glossary at Part 2 for a definition of a specified person). A complaint made under section 4 of the 2001 Act will be investigated in accordance with the provisions of the Ethics Acts.

Aside from the above complaints procedure, there is no formal complaints procedure set out in the Electoral Acts. A person who considers, however, that the Electoral Acts may have been contravened may make a complaint in writing to the Standards Commission. The person will be required to provide details of the complaint and the alleged contravention.

The Standards Commission is precluded from acting on a complaint unless the identity of the person making the complaint is disclosed to it. The Standards Commission may, however, if it considers it appropriate to do so, use information contained in an anonymous complaint as the basis for initiating an enquiry into a possible contravention of the Electoral Acts.

The Standards Commission is empowered under the Electoral Acts to make such inquiries as it considers appropriate and to require any person to furnish any information, document or thing in the possession or procurement of the person which the Standards Commission may require for the purpose of its duties under the Electoral Acts.

Where the Standards Commission is of the opinion that there may have been a contravention of the Electoral Acts it will notify the person concerned and give the person 14 days to provide any comments he / she may have on the matter. If, having considered such comments, the Standards Commission is still of the opinion that the person may have contravened the Electoral Acts it is required to furnish a written report on the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Standards Commission has been advised by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, however to forward any such reports directly to An Gardaí.

3.3 Records held by the Standards Commission under the Electoral Acts

The records below are held by the Standards Commission in the performance of its functions under the Electoral Acts. It is indicated on each category of record whether the information contained therein is already in the public domain. Where a document is already in the public domain it can be accessed without recourse to the FOI Acts.

  • Annual Donation Statements received from political parties, Members and MEPs. (Published material)
  • Donation Statements furnished by unsuccessful candidates at Dáil, Seanad and European elections and by the election agents of candidates at presidential elections. (Published material)
  • Correspondence with or relating to Donation Statements furnished by political parties, Members, MEPs, unsuccessful candidates at Dáil, Seanad and European elections and election agents of candidates at presidential elections.
  • Correspondence with political parties, Members, MEPs, unsuccessful candidates at Dáil, Seanad and European elections, the election agents of candidates at presidential elections and third parties concerning prohibited donations.
  • Certificates of Monetary Donations and statements from financial institutions furnished by Members, MEPs, unsuccessful candidates at Dáil, Seanad and European elections ,the election agents of candidates at presidential elections, the responsible persons of third parties and the responsible persons of accounting units of political parties. (Section 23B(8) of the Electoral Acts provides that the contents of these documents shall not be disclosed by the Standards Commission unless ordered by a Court to do so or where such disclosure is required in connection with an investigation held by the Standards Commission.)
  • Correspondence with or relating to Certificates of Monetary Donations and statements from financial institutions furnished by Members, MEPs, unsuccessful candidates at Dáil, Seanad and European elections, the election agents of candidates at presidential elections, the responsible persons of third parties and the responsible persons of accounting units of political parties.
  • Donation Statements furnished by individuals who in a calendar year, made donations the aggregate value of which exceeded €5,078.95 to one or more members of the same political party or to a political party itself and one or more of it's members. (Published material)
  • Correspondence with the above individuals.
  • Correspondence with companies, trades unions, representative bodies, Companies Registration Office and Office of the Registrar of Friendly Societies regarding section 26 of the Electoral Acts.
  • Correspondence with political parties regarding the notification of their accounting units.
  • Correspondence with accounting units regarding the requirements of the Electoral Acts.
  • Details of third parties who have registered with the Standards Commission (Published material).
  • Correspondence with third parties or potential third parties regarding the requirements of the Electoral Acts.Public notices and explanatory notes published by the Standards Commission (Published material)
  • Correspondence with publishers of newspapers, magazines etc. regarding the requirements of sections 31(10) or 52(9) of the Electoral Acts.
  • Correspondence with Returning Officers regarding the appointment of election agents and with political parties regarding the appointment of appropriate officers and the appointment of national agents.
  • Election Expenses Statements and supporting documentation (invoices, receipts or vouchers) furnished by candidate's election agents, national agents and "other persons" at Dáil and European elections and by candidate's election agents at a presidential election. (Published material)
  • Correspondence with election agents, national agents and "other persons" concerning their requirements under the Electoral Acts and in relation to their Election Expenses Statements.
  • Applications for Reimbursement of Election Expenses received from qualified candidates at Dáil and European elections. (Published material)
  • Correspondence with qualified candidates concerning their reimbursement of election expenses and with the Dept. of Finance concerning the payment of reimbursements.
  • Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding and auditor's reports received from qualified political parties. (Published material)
  • Correspondence with appropriate officers of qualified political parties concerning their requirements under the Electoral Acts in relation to Exchequer funding and in relation to the Statements of Expenditure of Exchequer funding furnished by them.
  • Correspondence with the Dept. of Finance concerning the payments of Exchequer funding to qualified parties under the Electoral Acts.
  • Guidelines issued to candidates, election agents and national agents at Dáil, Seanad, European and Presidential elections. (Published material)
  • Guidelines issued to Members, MEPs and political parties concerning the acceptance and disclosure of political donations and to qualified political parties concerning expenditure of Exchequer funding received under the Electoral Acts. (Published material)
  • Advice on compliance with the legislation which is given to appropriate officers and national agents of political parties, Members and MEPs, candidates at Dáil, Seanad, European and presidential elections, election agents of candidates at Dáil, European and presidential elections and the responsible persons of third parties and accounting units of political parties.Reports furnished by the Standards Commission to the Ceann Comhairle. (Published material)
  • Press releases issued by the Standards Commission. (Published material)
  • Reports concerning enquiries conducted into possible contraventions of the Electoral Acts. (Published material)
  • Correspondence concerning enquiries conducted into possible contraventions of the Electoral Acts.

3.4 Glossary of terms relevant to Part 3 of the Manual

Appropriate Officer

A political party is required to appoint an appropriate officer for the purpose of furnishing the party's Donation Statement to the Standards Commission, and other matters. Each party must notify the Standards Commission of the name and address of the person appointed and must give similar notice if there is any change in the appointment. Each "qualified party" must provide details of its appropriate officer to the Standards Commission and to the Minister for Finance. If, at any time, no appointment of an appropriate officer is made, the leader of the party will be deemed to have been appointed as the appropriate officer.

Political Purposes

Political purposes means any of the following purposes, namely:

(i)(I) to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the interests of a political party, a political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas or a representative in the European Parliament, or

(II) to present, directly or indirectly, the policies or a particular policy of a political party, a political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas, a representative in the European Parliament or a third party, or

(III) to present, directly or indirectly, the comments of a political party, a political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas, a representative in the European Parliament or a third party with regard to the policy or policies of another political party, political group, member of either House of the Oireachtas, representative in the European Parliament, third party or candidate at an election or referendum or otherwise, or

(IV) to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the interests of a third party in connection with the conduct or management of any campaign conducted with a view to promoting or procuring a particular outcome in relation to a policy or policies or functions of the Government or any public authority;

(ii) to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the election of a candidate at a Dáil, Seanad or European election or to solicit votes for or against a candidate or to present the policies or a particular policy of a candidate or the views of a candidate on any matter connected with the election or the comments of a candidate with regard to the policy or policies of a political party or a political group or of another candidate at the election or otherwise;

(iii) otherwise to influence the outcome of the election or a referendum or campaign referred to in paragraph (i)(IV) of this definition.

Responsible Person

A responsible person, in relation to an accounting unit, means the treasurer or any other person responsible for dealing with donations to the unit and in relation to a "third party" means the person responsible for its organisation, management or financial affairs.