By Marc Morrison
Fine Gael spent over €13k promoting their by-election candidates through advertisements on Facebook & Instagram in the run up to polling day.
According to data available on Facebook, Fine Gael outspent all other parties with a total of €13,599.
The sum was spent on advertising their four candidates in the by-elections, where they returned no winning seats, but did win the second most first preference votes behind Fianna Fail.
The data is according to the Facebook Ad Library which is an online collection of all ads that have run on Facebook.
The data also shows Fianna Fail, who won two seats with Malcolm Byrne in Wexford and Pádraig O’Sullivan in Cork North Central, spent just over €6k in advertising their candidates on the platform.
The most spent on advertising one candidate was €5,770 on advertisements about Cllr Emer Higgins who ran in Dublin Mid-West but lost out to Sinn Fein’s Mark Ward.
The Green Party who returned one seat with Joe O’Brien in Dublin Fingal spent the least with a total of €310.
Currently political parties don’t have to abide by specific spending limits for digital ad campaigns. Through targeted Facebook ads, political parties buying ads on Facebook platforms can select an age group, gender or particular area they would like to target.
Liz Carolan of Digital Action said: “Candidates have spending limits for elections, and parties have transparency requirements on their donations and expenditure. What will be interesting is to see how digital spending by parties impacts on candidate limits.”
In a 4-seat constituency (Cork North-Central, Dublin Mid-West), a candidate can spend up to €37,650 on their campaign and in a 5-seat constituency (Dublin Fingal, Wexford) a candidate can spend up to €45,200.
“We have seen in the UK in next week’s general election that party HQs have been using digital advertising targeted at constituencies to boost particular candidates, but not including that spending within limits,” she added.
A Fine Gael spokesman said: ““All our spending, in line with SIPO requirements, including digital, is all publicly available and filed within the required timeframe.”