Imagine if a political party had an exclusively tied relationship with a financial institution that say it meant that all members of the party would be entitled to a discount if they used that financial institution for their mortgages, insurances etc but that the discount only applied for that institution so that if they went elsewhere with their business they would be paying more. Many thousands of punters served up for their exclusive consumption.
It’s a great boost to the financial institution as it gives them a considerably and exclusive advantage over other insurance and financial service providers with respect to these potential customers. Then imagine if the same political organisation was in turn to be in receipt of donations from that same financial institution in respect of specific election candidates who had previously held senior positions in the party in which one would presume they were in a position to influence any discussions about changing or reviewing that tied relationship to perhaps enter into a relationship with another financial institution. There would be all sorts of questions being asked about the appropriateness of this relationship and comments from the social partners as to how it appears.
Yet this is the situation between the ASTI, Cornmarket Group Financial Services and perennial Seanad contestant Bernadine O’Sullivan. It is unclear to me as an outsider what role if any the ordinary membership of the ASTI get to have in nominating Bernadine O’Sullivan or in deciding to place a few grand into her hands each time she launches her assault on the Seanad as part of the teachers’ union leadership regular “let’s compare the size of our membership*” effort, or what advantage they as members accrue from the donations that Cornmarket make to her personal election campaigns. After all, I’m sure that many insurance brokers would be happy to extend a 10/15% group discount to the thousands of teachers that would be members of the ASTI. The ones who appear to benefit most directly from this tied relationship is Cornmarket from the extra business it brings in and Bernadine O’Sullivan by funding her Seanad campaign without having to dip her hand into her own pocket, she also gets a tidy few grand from the ASTI itself. Cornmarket don’t declare who else they’ve given money too as it’s not required on their B1 return provided the aggregate amounts don’t exceed €5079 in a single year. A Machiavellian person, which I’m not of course, might even wonder if the alternating of money from the ASTI/Cornmarket might simply be a means to get around the limit on corporation donations. But surely the leadership of a trade union wouldn’t do that with its members hard earned dues now would they?
*An effort that it would appear most teachers whether from the ASTI, TUI or INTO find patronising and tedious as can be seen by the fact that less than 10% of the number of those who are members of the unions end up voting for these self appointed proxies.