Foster defends handling of questions on £425,000 donation

DUP chief faced scrutiny after saying she did not know how much party got off mystery donor

 DUP leader and former first minister Arlene Foster faced scrutiny last week after claiming she did not know how much the party had been given by a then-unnamed mystery donor. File photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

DUP leader and former first minister Arlene Foster faced scrutiny last week after claiming she did not know how much the party had been given by a then-unnamed mystery donor. File photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

DUP leader Arlene Foster has defended her handling of questions around a major donation that bankrolled the DUP’s £425,000 pro-Brexit campaign.

The former first minister faced scrutiny last week after claiming she did not know how much the party had been given by a then-unnamed mystery donor.

A day later, DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson revealed the benefactor as a little-known Great Britain-based group of pro-Union business figures called the Constitutional Research Council.

Critics questioned how the party leader could not have been familiar with the detail of such a huge single donation - a cash boost that enabled the DUP to promote its Leave message on a UK-wide basis, including the purchase of a four-page Vote To Leave EU advert in the British Metro newspaper.

Ms Foster said giving a ballpark figure in the BBC interview would have only drawn criticism.

“I didn’t have in my mind the very specific figure that we had been given,” she said.

“If I had said ‘oh, it’s in the region of £450,000’ I would have been attacked [with people asking] - ‘so you don’t know exactly how much it is?’

“I wasn’t going to enter into the realms of saying what it was and what it wasn’t.

“I knew by that stage that we were speaking to the individuals in question and we were hopeful that we were going to be as open and transparent as we have been.”

Media accused

Ms Foster accused the media of not subjecting other parties to the same examination around their finances.

“It’s just a pity that Sinn Féin and republicans aren’t as open and transparent about the millions of pounds, the million that they have received from America through the Republic of Ireland, ” she said.

“Nobody knows where it comes from, nobody knows what it’s used for.

“Yet when we get a donation for a completely legitimate purpose, to fight the European Union campaign, and we have shown everybody where it came from and what it was spent on, people are still asking questions of us and not asking any questions of the other parties.

“I find that bizarre in the extreme. It leads us to ask questions about what the media are doing in this campaign.”

Press Association