Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Eurosceptics target Ireland

A few months ago UKIP leader Nigel Farage trumpeted on his blog that the Independence and Democracy group (that his UKIP MEPs are the main part of) had decided to "donate a substantial sum of money" to the Irish "No" campaign for the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

At one level, it is amusing to see UKIP, which frequently makes shrill accusations about "Brussels meddling with Britain", trying to meddle in a referendum campaign in another country.

However, at another level, this is a serious matter and potentially illegal. The rules governing donations for referendum campaigns in Ireland are very clear. Donations are illegal if they fall into the following categories:

"A donation, of whatever value, from an individual (other than an Irish citizen) who resides outside the island of Ireland" or,

"A donation from a body corporate or unicorporated body of persons which does not keep an office in the island of Ireland from which one or more of its principle activities is directed".

Of course, UKIP knows this and will no doubt try to keep their donations quiet or find an indirect route to channel their money. The well-heeled eurosceptics from across Europe are targeting Ireland. Anyone who gets wind of such donations should inform the Irish Commission on Standards in Public Office, the body charged with making sure that the referendum is fair and that Ireland's rules on spending - which gives equal amounts of public money to both sides - are not subverted.

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