Ireland aims to prevent Russian election meddling by banning crypto donations

New political and electoral integrity legislation in Ireland restricts cryptocurrency donations to Irish political parties. According to reports, the legislative proposal is the consequence of concerns about foreign meddling in politics. However, no information on the percentages or monetary value of political donations made via cryptocurrencies to political parties and individuals has been released.

Regarding Russian interference, Irish authorities enacted new integrity laws prohibiting political donations in the form of cryptocurrency. In addition, the country enacted harsher regulations on all foreign political contributions. Among others, Government Minister Darrah O’Brien stated that the government is concerned about potential Russian meddling. This follows many but unconfirmed accusations that certain Russian oligarchs have begun to use digital assets to dodge the harsh sanctions imposed by the West because of the Russian war.

Meanwhile, participants of the hearing expressed concerns about defending the country from pro-Russian hacking and disinformation. In particular from the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party. However, these fears have grown more intense since the start of the war in Ukraine. As a consequence of the discussion, the working group made proposals for developing legal and technology protections against harmful election intervention. This involves the openness of political parties’ property portfolios.

In February 2022, the Irish central bank had previously expressed skepticism about cryptocurrencies. In particular, it was unlikely to authorize cryptocurrencies investment funds for individual investors due to a lack of a high degree of expertise. Thus, the Central Bank of Ireland issued a warning to customers regarding cryptocurrency assets in March, urging them “to be cautious of the risks of deceptive advertising, particularly on social media.”

However, the government does not disclose the monetary amount of political donations in cryptocurrency. So the Cointelegraph reached out to Secretary O’Brien and the Public Service Standards Commission for comment but did not receive a response right away. Because of concerns about an escalation of the Russia-Ukraine war, O’Brien launched his campaign to modify the regulations in January 2022. The team of political scientists and lawyers study new election laws.

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