It was reported in the Irish Examiner last Monday that Fianna Fail took donations either side of the 2007 general election which were above the declaration threshold and should have been notified to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) – but were not.
I decided to submit a formal complaint to the Standards in Public Office Commission regarding this matter.
As a first step I rang Fianna Fail HQ to obtain the name of the person responsible for the alleged offence as the law requires that an individual be identified in all complaints.
Predictably, after a lot of waffle, I was told that my question was unanswerable at this time.
Some hours later I received a call from a very angry David Burke, Fianna Fail director of finance.
Mr. Burke was not pleased and demanded to know what I was up to; he demanded to know the basis on which I was making my complaint.
When I said I was basing it on the article in the Irish Examiner he nearly had a fit – you’re basing it on something a journalist wrote? The word ‘journalist’ was spat out with venom. He then proceeded to state his party’s position.
“We’ve issued a statement that we are in full compliance with all the legislation as set down by SIPO. You are allowed (how kind) to make whatever representation you want to SIPO but I can assure you that we are fully compliant with all the legislative requirements. The article was inaccurate in certain respects and will be clarified with SIPO over the coming month.”
During the conversation I mentioned that I didn’t have much confidence in SIPO as a regulatory body which, bizarrely, made Mr. Burke even angrier claiming I was inferring that his party had done something illegal.
I was at a complete loss; I mean, how could I or indeed anybody ever think that Fianna Fail might do something illegal?
Mr. Burke made it clear to me that he was an expert on the law regarding this matter:
“I know the legislation inside out, I live and breathe it. With all due respect you have not read the legislation to the level of detail that I know the legislation, I can assure you of that.”
Then he said something which I thought very curious:
“SIPO will make contact with us, we will then clarify our position which I can assure you is in full compliance with the law, SIPO will then subsequently confirm our position.”
It must be very comforting for Fianna Fail knowing in advance that SIPO will confirm their position although, to be fair, I could be misinterpreting Mr. Burke’s meaning.
In any case, I submitted my formal complaint to SIPO yesterday.