SIPO: Close the loophole giving Foreign NGOs the ability to massively influence Irish law

SIPO: Stop foreign foundations from massively influencing Irish law!

 

SIPO: Close the loophole giving Foreign NGOs the ability to massively influence Irish law

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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!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

http://www.sipo.gov.ie/en/Guidelines/Explanatory-Notes/Explanatory-Notes-for-Third-Parties/Explanatory-Notes-for-Third-Parties.html

http://www.atlanticphilanthropies.org/regions/republic-of-ireland

http://www.atlanticphilanthropies.org/grantees?subthemes[]=29

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/billionaire-soros-funding-groups-fighting-to-repeal-irish-abortion-ban-34980624.html

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SIPO: Close or remedy the loophole giving Foreign Foundations and NGOs the ability to massively influence Irish law

For the Kind Attention of:

  • Mr Justice Daniel O'Keeffe - Chairman of SIPO
  • Mr Peter Tyndall - Ombudsman for Ireland and Member of SIPO

Cc'ed to the Dail Committees on Justice and Petitions

I'm writing to you because I have learned about a gaping loop-hole in the Electoral Act (1997, and as amended), which permits Irish "Third Party" NGOs to accept monies coming from foreign bodies (like a foundation, NGO, etc.), if those foreign bodies maintain an office in the Republic.

What this means in practice is that, if a foreign body, which derives most, or even all, of its funding from abroad, simply opens an office in Ireland, then that enables Irish Third Parties to accept large amounts of funding from it, even though the main intention of the Irish Third Party organisations may be to campaign for changes in Irish law.

And, there are real-world implications which stem from this loop-hole, namely, that foreign bodies have, can and will continue to unduly influence Irish law and culture if this gap is not closed or remedied.

For example, this loop-hole has allowed the likes of Atlantic Philanthropies donate over $1.2 Billion to Irish donees since 1985. Now, a percentage of that funding probably did achieve some good for people in the Irish Republic.

But, at what price?

The price was accepting that an essentially foreign body could interfere with Irish politics and law. One example, which Atlantic Philanthropies, themselves, boast about on their website, is the result of the "Same-sex Marriage" referendum in 2015.

Now, looking to the future, other foundations, apart from Atlantic Philanthropies, have recently set their sights on Ireland, and specifically, Irish pro-life laws.

We, the undersigned, are therefore, rightly concerned that the same tactics could be used by other organisations to unduly and disproportionately influence Irish law in other such sensitive matters.

Therefore, we now call on the Oireachtas, as well as SIPO itself, to bring forward an amendment to the Electoral Act, to the effect that this loop-hole will either be closed altogether, or that it will be remedied, such that only Irish Third Parties, not specifically campaigning for changes to Irish law, could be eligible to receive funding from such foreign bodies, even if those bodies have offices in the Republic.

This change is essential to retain a credible democracy.

Thank you for your serious consideration.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

SIPO: Close the loophole giving Foreign NGOs the ability to massively influence Irish law

Sign this petition now!

02,000
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1,042 people have signed. Help us reach 2,000 signatures.