SIPO: Close the loophole giving Foreign NGOs the ability to massively influence Irish law
In Ireland, the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) was set-up, by a successive series of legislative Acts, to regulate ethical matters in Irish politics. As from their website, part of SIPO's job is to supervise the, "the disclosure of donations and election expenditure", as well as, "the registration of lobbying."
FIRST - Some Critical Definitions Taken From The Electoral Act (1997), Governing SIPO Policy
"A Third Party", as defined by the amended Electoral Act (1997), means: "[A]ny individual or group, other than a registered political party or election candidate, who or which accepts, in a particular calendar year, a donation for political purposes exceeding the value of €100."
AND, in that regard,
"Political purposes" (in part) is defined as: "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."
So, the simple idea is that SIPO acts as an independent watchdog in Irish legal and electoral affairs, attempting to ensure that no individual or organisation can exert undue influence in Irish politics. And, it should be noted, here, that SIPO's guidelines take particular exception to foreign individuals or organisations interfering in Irish political affairs.
In fact, the explanatory note, accompanying the Electoral Act (1997), dictates that: "A recipient of a donation [i.e., a "Third Party"] may not accept a donation, of whatever value, from an individual (other than an Irish citizen) who resides outside the island of Ireland."
But, unfortunately, in that regard, there is a loophole which allows foreign (international) bodies to make donations to politically-active Irish NGOs, if they keep an office in Ireland.
Specifically, the guideline states: "A recipient of a donation [i.e., a "Third Party"] may not accept a donation from a body corporate or unincorporated body of persons which does not keep an office in the island of Ireland from which one or more of its principal activities is directed."
So, simply by opening and keeping an office in Ireland, a foreign body can get around the usual prohibition on foreign monies being donating to Irish Third Parties, whose end is to influence Irish legislation.
This is not just a loophole, it is a gigantic, gaping loophole. And, because it allows foreign monies to unduly influence Irish politics, this loophole must be closed, or remedied forthwith.
Let's examine an example in practice.
Atlantic Philanthropies is a huge American-based NGO, which derives most of its principal assets from the wealth of one Irish-American man, Chuck Feeney. Atlantic Philanthropies has an office in Dublin, on Pembroke Street Upper, and by virtue of this office (i.e., the loophole in the Electoral Act), Irish Third Parties are allowed to accept massive donations from Atlantic Philanthropies, even though the money is foreign, and even though the intention of some of the Third Party donees is to influence Irish law.
Atlantic Philanthropies' website boasts of having "invested" $1.2 Billion in Ireland, "to advance higher education, human rights and services for the young and old." And, right beneath that claim, listing their "achievements" in that regard, the website says: "2015: Marriage Equality Referendum voted in with massive approval".
So, by adverting to the 2015 referendum, it is quite clear that Atlantic Philanthropies believes they achieved (at minimum) one thing they sought to achieve in Irish politics. And, they did it with the help of Irish Third Parties, who were in receipt of their funding over the past decade.
How can this kind of foreign meddling in Irish political and cultural life be in keeping with the spirit of the Electoral Act? Simply put, it cannot.
Now, as to the future, there are other issues, like retaining Ireland's pro-life constitutional amendment, which will be discussed and voted on in the near term. And, other international foundations have already signalled that they have Ireland's pro-life laws in their sights.
Therefore, this loophole, which effectively allows foreign bodies to meddle in Irish politics and electoral life, needs to be closed immediately. Or, needs to be remedied so that such foreign bodies are absolutely prevented from donating to Irish Third Parties seeking to achieve political or legal change.
This petition, which is directed to SIPO and the Irish Ombudsman, as well as being Cc'ed to the Dail Committees on Justice and Petitions, asks for the same. Thanks for signing!
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SIPO: Close or remedy the loophole giving Foreign Foundations and NGOs the ability to massively influence Irish law