Varadkar assured SIPO procedures were in place for illegal donations – despite accepting two over legal limit

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar assured SIPO that he had internal procedures in place to avoid political donations over the legal threshold – despite previously accepting at least two such payments.

Last week The Ditch reported that SIPO wrote to the taoiseach earlier this month and told him it had received evidence that he had accepted two donations, both from Edelman, above the legal threshold. The PR firm had rejected, in writing to SIPO, Varadkar’s explanation about why he had accepted two donations that exceeded the legally allowed €1,000.

SIPO is currently probing several electronic payments to Varadkar and why he didn’t declare them in his annual donation statement for this year.  A spokesperson for the taoiseach said he's "checking all the facts".

Procedures were in place. The limit was still broken

Leo Varadkar wrote to SIPO in April this year after it queried several donations he received in 2022.

“All donations received from donors are recorded – the donor's name, address, gross amount (and net donation where there was a fundraising event) – in compliance with SIPO guidelines,” wrote the taoiseach in his letter to SIPO dated April 6, 2023.

Varadkar also said in the letter that “donations are reviewed initially as they are received to ensure they are allowable and within the limits”. He made this claim despite receiving at least two donations over the legal threshold from PR firm Edelman in 2018 and 2022.

The Dublin West TD ended his letter with further assurances on the internal procedures he had in place for accepting donations.

“Donations are also reviewed periodically throughout the year and at the end of the year to ensure that the aggregated donation received from each donor is within the limits,” wrote Varadkar in his April 2023 correspondence to SIPO official Ray Butler.

SIPO is currently investigating why Varadkar accepted a €1,400 donation from Edelman in 2018, which wasn’t publicly declared.

The taoiseach initially claimed in 2019 that Edelman’s donation was reimbursed by seven individuals. Earlier this month however SIPO wrote to Varadkar informing him that Edelman had confirmed that it was not reimbursed for the 2018 payment nor for a further €1,250 donation it made to Varadkar in 2022.

The maximum legally permitted annual donation to a TD from a single source is €1,000 and any payments more than €600 must be declared in annual donation statements.

Responding to Varadkar, SIPO said it needs more detail on his publicly undeclared donations.

“While this information is useful, we require further details to be clear that you have complied with your statutory obligations,” reads the commission’s response.

The taoiseach now has till the end of this month to provide SIPO with a comprehensive statement on his donations.

A spokesperson for Varadkar said, "The taoiseach has
acknowledged SIPO's queries, is checking all the facts and will respond to SIPO prior to their deadline."

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors