Northern Ireland

DUP and Sinn Fein divided over donations

The DUP and Sinn Fein are divided over whether donations to NI political parties should remain confidential.

The DUP said that security remained an issue and the law should continue to protect the identity of donors.

Sinn Fein said the public had the right to know who was funding parties.

Earlier this month, the Northern Ireland Office began a consultation on confidentiality arrangements governing donations and loans to political parties in NI.

The NIO consultation runs until 25 October.

At present, parties must tell the Electoral Commission about donations above £7,500.

However, the commission is not permitted to release this information to the public.

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey dismissed the notion that security concerns justified confidentiality.

Mr Maskey said his party already published details of its donations in the Irish Republic as required by law and saw no reason why parties in NI should not do the same as an anti-corruption measure.

"We believe it is good practice that parties would publish the donations that they do receive, particularly if they involve corporate donations," he said.

"We do not as a party receive corporate donations and I think the public should know; essentially it protects all of us, including parties, against corruption."

But the DUP's Simon Hamilton said he favoured confidentiality in the current climate.

"We have got to be very mindful of the potential negative impact this could have on people's safety and security," he said.

"In the past people in business, the general public, were targeted indiscriminately by terrorists for no apparent reason at all.

"I think if people are shown to be funding one political party or another political party, given the current climate of dissident republican terrorist activity, I think we have got to be very cautious about radically changing the system in a way that might put people in danger."

Parliament has legislated for the confidentiality provisions to expire on 1 March next year.

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