Details of donations to North’s political parties to be published

Measure would not cover controversial £425,000 given to DUP during Brexit campaign

DUP leader Arlene Foster whose party has been criticised over a £425,000 donation received during the Brexit campaign. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images.

DUP leader Arlene Foster whose party has been criticised over a £425,000 donation received during the Brexit campaign. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images.

 

The British Conservatives have been accused of making a “side-deal” with the DUP after Northern secretary James Brokenshire said details of donations to political parties in Northern Ireland were to be published.

Before now, for security reasons related to the Troubles, such donations were not publicised in order not to identify donors. Under the new proposals, Mr Brokenshire has decided that donations made as of last Saturday (July 1st) will be published.

He was criticised however for not bringing in retrospective legislation that would have allowed publication going back to January 2014.

The DUP has been under pressure to provide more details about a donation of around £425,000 it received from an organisation called the Constitutional Research Council to support the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum.

A significant portion of the money was used to buy a four-page supplement in the Metro freesheet in London and other British cities urging people to vote to quit the European Union. This has been categorised as “dark money”.

Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill criticised Mr Brokenshire over the donations announcement, made in the House of Commons on Monday.

She said he had “quite crassly let the DUP off the hook on the issue of the dark money donation of over £400,000 which bought its support for Brexit”.

“This latest evidence of a Tory side deal with the DUP comes on the heels of the DUP’s support for cuts to the wages of emergency and public sector workers and support for a Tory Brexit,” she said.

‘Transparency’

Mr Brokenshire said there was a consensus on a need for “greater transparency on political donations” in Northern Ireland.

“In line with the commitment set out in the Conservative Party’s Northern Ireland manifesto for the general election, I can confirm that I intend to bring forward legislation that will provide for the publication of all donations and loans received by Northern Ireland parties on or after the 1st of July 2017,” he said.

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson queried Mr Brokenshire on whether donations to Sinn Féin routed via the Republic of Ireland also would have to be published. He said that this issue “would remain under consideration”.

Ann Watt, head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, welcomed the announcement.

“While all reportable donations and loans received from July 1st 2017 will now be published by the commission, we would also like to see the necessary legislation put in place, as soon as possible, to allow us to publish details of donations and loans received since January 2014,” she said. “Such a move will only help to further enhance today’s positive announcement on future transparency.”