Atheist Ireland to register with Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO)

Atheist Ireland will register this year with the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The Standards in Public Office Commission is an independent body established in December 2001 by the Standards in Public Office Act 2001. It has six members and is chaired by a former Judge of the High Court. It has supervisory roles under three separate pieces of legislation. Its functions include supervising the disclosure of political interests, donations and expenditure.

The SIPO guidelines state that any behaviour has a political purpose if it seeks (directly or indirectly) to present the policies of your own organisation, or comment on the policies of another organisation, or seek any particular outcome in relation to a policy or policies or functions of the Government or any public authority, or to otherwise seek to influence the outcome of an election or a referendum or a campaign.

SIPO has informed us that virtually all our activities are deemed to be political. It is obvious that our Campaign to separate Church and State is political but we have also been informed that our Campaign for a secular education system is also deemed to be political. In addition campaigning to amend the Constitutional reference to Blasphemy and campaigning to amend the Constitution in relation to religious oaths are all deemed to be political.

Atheist Ireland will register as a Third Party (the other two categories being a political party or an election candidate). A Third Party means any individual or group, other than a registered political party or election candidate, who or which accepts, in a particular calendar year, a donation for political purposes exceeding the value of €100.

The Third Party Guidelines are as follows. Political purposes means any of the following purposes, namely:

1. to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the interests of a political party, a political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas or a representative in the European Parliament, or

2. to present, directly or indirectly, the policies or a particular policy of a political party, a political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas, a representative in the European Parliament or a third party, or

3. to present, directly or indirectly, the comments of a political party, a political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas, a representative in the European Parliament or a third party with regard to the policy or policies of another political party, political group, member of either House of the Oireachtas, representative in the European Parliament, third party or candidate at an election or referendum or otherwise, or

4. to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the interests of a third party in connection with the conduct or management of any campaign conducted with a view to promoting or procuring a particular outcome in relation to a policy or policies or functions of the Government or any public authority;

5. to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the election of a candidate at a Dáil, Seanad, Presidential or European election or to solicit votes for or against a candidate or to present the policies or a particular policy of a candidate or the views of a candidate on any matter connected with the election or the comments of a candidate with regard to the policy or policies of a political party or a political group or of another candidate at the election or otherwise;

6. otherwise to seek to influence the outcome of the election or a referendum or a campaign.

Complying with the requirements of the Office of the Standards in Public Office Commission will not be too onerous for us and we accept that the vast majority of our work is of a political nature. We will comply with all the relevant legislation in this area and look forward to working with the Standards in Public Office Commission to ensure that all our donations are open to public scrutiny.

Jane Donnelly

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Rafiq Mahmood January 26, 2015

    This is, presumably, all fine and dandy. Will the Catholic Church and other religious organisations also be required to register?