To Leo Varadkar
Why is this important?
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are essential for our democracy to function. In Ireland however we are facing increasing restrictions that limit our ability to engage in democratic activities and to raise funds.
The Electoral Acts limit the size of Irish donations for ‘political’ (democratic) purposes and ban donations from international donors. The purpose of the law was to prevent foreign interference in elections and referendums– something we all agree with. However, by defining ‘political’ so broadly as to cover any comment on any issue of public policy, the law is now being used to effectively silence the work of civil society organisations.
The gagging effect of the Electoral Acts means many important voices are not being heard by decision makers and politicians. There’s a risk that increasingly only the wealthy and those who do not need to seek donations to make their views known will get to have their voices heard.
This was not the original purpose of the law, but it urgently needs to be amended to ensure that measures to protect the integrity of our politics don’t end up restricting participation to political parties and the rich and powerful.