*Cllr Donna McGettigan. Photograph: Eamon Ward

SINN FÉIN’ may be the wealthiest political party on the island of Ireland but one of its local election candidates in Clare still had to conduct a collection over the weekend.

A collection was held in Shannon Town Centre on Saturday for Cllr Donna McGettigan’s (SF) “expensive” election campaign.

When announcing details of the fundraiser, Cllr McGettigan said, “this will help towards the campaign to get elected to Clare County Council, I will be able to continue with the hard work that I have been doing and also to represent the voices of Shannon”.

Political figures within the county expressed their shock at what has been described as an unprecedented “whip-round” for a politician. Sinn Féin members Billy Austin and Kieran Burke were accepting the donations outside Hillery’s Pharmacy on behalf of Cllr McGettigan who was out of the country.

Figures released in December revealed that in 2022, Sinn Féin received €80,190 worth of disclosed donations, the most amount of any political party in the county. Sinn Féin says it owns 19 properties on both sides of the island, including 16 constituency offices. The buildings include three head offices in Dublin and Belfast, collectively worth at least €2m, and seven offices owned by local constituency organisations in the Republic.

Keith McNamara (IND) who is challenging Cllr McGettigan for a seat on the County Council told The Clare Echo, “I am very surprised to see a personal collection organised for an individual councillor who has aspirations to be a TD within a large political party. Its is extremely unusual way to raise money for a campaign when there are clear rules and guidelines set out in the under the local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Act 1999 and SIPO guidelines”.

He explained, “Running as an independent I don’t have access to vast resources of a party like Sinn Féin both in money, manpower or printing”.

McNamara added, “As a true Independent having never been a member or aligned with a political party, my dedication to the various groups and societies I am a member both past and present is not dependent on people donating to my campaign, but my passion of volunteering and the betterment of the wider Shannon community. I certainly won’t be out asking for a whip-round for cash from the hard pressed community of the Shannon MD”.

Billy Austin and Kieran Burke. Photograph: Joe Buckley

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Cllr McGettigan stated that she had a Garda permit for the fundraiser. “Each area is responsible for its own candidates and funding, funding should be done through the year, we do national draws and have held table quizzes in the past, we haven’t been out the last few years and COVID had put a stop to them (fundraising events)”.

Sinn Féin were not expecting cash-strapped constituents to fork out for the fundraiser, she said, “If you don’t have the money you don’t need to give into it”.

Money raised “will go towards leaflets and posters,” Cllr McGettigan said. “The party wouldn’t be funding everything, if you’re stuck you go up to them, each area looks after their own finances”.

When asked if having to raise the finances puts an additional burden on prospective candidates, the Shannon woman said, “I wouldn’t say that, particularly with the fact that posters are not used in certain areas it means most of the campaign is online but we’re on the doors all the time. If there’s a campaign on a back to school allowance for example, the leaflets will be sent from head office”.

She maintained persons under financial pressures would not be ruled out as potential candidates, if fundraising forms parts of their responsibilities. “The party wouldn’t see you see stuck, it wouldn’t restrict people”.

On the question marks raised over a Sinn Féin candidate having such a fundraiser, Donna commented, “the money Sinn Féin has won’t last forever, we’re running the biggest amount of candidates for the local elections and the party wouldn’t have the funds to cater for that, to run the party and hold events like the Ard Fhéis. What we raised isn’t a huge amount of money, we are not asking people who don’t have the money to put their hand in their pockets, they can simply help by liking and sharing our posts on social media”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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