Ireland has announced electoral reforms that will ban political parties from accepting donations in cryptocurrency.
New rules on political integrity will be introduced to counter potential Russian cyber-interference in Ireland’s democracy.
Restrictions will be placed on overseas contributions, and parties will also be required to fully disclose all property holdings as part of a legislative shake-up.
Ireland’s Local Government Minister, Darragh O’Brien, wrote to party leaders outlining a variety of measures he is introducing to counter foreign interference in Irish elections.
The measures include protection against social media campaigns spreading misinformation that could adversely influence the elections, and new laws governing how and from whom political parties may receive funding.
Now all political parties must be able to produce consolidated accounts that adhere to global standards and best accounting practices. And heads of parties will need to sign declarations of compliance with the new funding laws.
O’Brien used the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a case in point for how dangerous politically-charged misinformation is to democracies globally.
“The appalling invasion of Ukraine and insidious disinformation war highlight the ongoing fundamental threats faced by all democracies,” he said.
O’Brien began his policy reform campaign in Jan 2022 when he commissioned Attorney General Paul Gallagher to put together a task force comprised of legal professionals and political scientists to “build a legal and digital bulwark against malign interference in our elections.”
Ireland has been exposed to Russian interference before
Recent Russian interference in Ireland has been subtle but significant. In 2018, the government introduced emergency legislation to block a large extension planned for the Russian Embassy in Dublin. Commentators suggested this was to house infrastructure for signals intelligence.
The Conti cyberattack that infiltrated the Health Service Executive (HSE) taking its computer systems offline in May 2021, further highlights how broader security deterioration can harm Irish society in unexpected ways.
The Wizard Spider crime syndicate, based in St. Petersburg in Russia, was suspected of the attack.
Ireland has a troubled history with cryptocurrency. The head of the country’s central bank warned last year that their popularity is a cause for “great concern.”
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