UCD Young Fine Gael have been found to be in receipt of donations from prominent local representatives coinciding both with the last round of local and general elections. The Tribune can reveal TD Josepha Madigan made a €100 donation to the UCD society in the run-up to the 2016 general election. Before the 2014 local elections local councillor John Kennedy also donated €100 to the branch. UCD YFG canvassed for both candidates in their election campaigns following the donations.
Society Council chair Eoghan Murphy has said while there is no rules against making donations to college societies, the money given to UCD YFG by the two politicians was ‘most likely was a way of saying thanks for canvassing during the election’.
UCD YFG chairperson Walter Burke has denied claims that the branch accepted any financial remuneration in exchange for active support of Cllr Kennedy and Deputy Madigan. Speaking to the College Tribune, Walter said ‘most people were behind [TD Alan] Shatter … From my role as Public Relations Officer on the committee last year there was never any arrangement within the committee to canvass for any candidate for money. Any donation which is received comes from the individual wanting to make a donation themselves and is documented in our accounts as required’. Pressed further about the branches involvement in this and other campaigns, Burke explained how UCD YFG were actively involved in the electioneering in all localities surrounding UCD, including Dublin Bay South and Dún Laoghaire.
“There was never any arrangement within the committee to canvass for any candidate for money” – UCD YFG Chair Walter Burke
Despite help from UCD YFG in canvassing and leafleting local election candidate John Kennedy was not elected in 2014. But Fine Gael performed strongly in the Stillorgan ward, winning one third of seats in the constituency with a convincing mandate. The two seats went to councillors Barry Saul and Josepha Madigan, who were elected on the first and second count respectively. Mr. Kennedy was unsuccessful during his campaign, finishing tenth in the election.
During the 2016 general election UCD YFG also canvassed for Fine Gael candidate Josepha Madigan, who made a €100 gift to the society earlier that academic year. Despite former Justice minister Alan Shatter being the sitting TD and Madigan only being a county councillor, there are several social media photos of UCD YFG canvassing for Madigan. Josepha Madigan was successful in 2016 and was elected to the Dáil, ahead of Alan Shatter who controversially lost his seat. John Kennedy was then co-opted onto the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county council by Madigan to fill her vacant seat.
The politician donations to the society were revealed in the UCD Young Fine Gael’s society report 2015, obtained by the Tribune. The grant report outlined details of events held by Young Fine Gael over the 2013/14 and 15/16 period which included multiple trips to Leinster House and trips abroad to Lisbon and Madrid. Other more low-key events included an annual mock Dáil, weekly society meetings and a panel discussion on climate change. Basic grant applications are made by societies to the societies’ council when a group are seeking yearly funding.
The branch reported an end of year balance for the 2015/16 season of just under €3,000, which has been brought forward to the current term. A total profit for the previous year was recorded at €601, with expenditure for the season costed at €2,186. This year the society it is believed registered 200 members (taking in €404 during Freshers’ Week at €2 a member). This is a drop from the €612 in membership fees taken from members the year before last, signalling around a membership of 300. Costs for the 2014 year included a gift for Minister Leo Varadkar, travel expenses for former society chairperson Richard Looby, the deposit for their annual society trip abroad, and a cost of €284 for their AGM. Anticipated spending outlined at the start of this year was €1,202, with the vast bulk of expenditure being planned to be put towards a trip abroad to Lisbon costing €800.
Image: Excerpt taken from UCD YFG accounts detailed on the society basic grant submission 2016/17
Speaking to the chair of the UCD Societies Council, Eoghan Murphy, it was detailed that very little regulation is actually in place when it comes to societies in UCD taking donations, with the majority of the obligation on societies rather than the university. Speaking with the College Tribune, Murphy highlighted that the university is under no particular responsibility to regulate the funding of a society unless ‘a student or society were to become influenced by the wrong people’.
Oísin McCanna Politics Editor