Northern Ireland

Alliance breaks ranks on political donations

cheque being written
Image caption Up to now, Stormont parties have not been required to reveal who funds them

Letters published by the Northern Ireland Office show that Alliance was the only local political party to call for political donations to be made public and backdated to 2014.

The release came after Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire was criticised for saying donations made from 1 July would be made public.

But he said he would not backdate publication of the details to 2014.

Up to now, Stormont parties have not been required to reveal who funds them.

Alliance wants NI to be brought in line with Great Britain where names of those who donate over £7,500 are published.

When Alliance leader Naomi Long was an MP, she secured legislative change that paved the way for the possible future identification of donors who contributed more than £7,500 since January 2014.

Outside UK

The DUP says donations should be made public once the new provisions are in place.

The party also says it wants to see an end to local parties accepting donations from outside the UK.

The UUP says the donations should be made public from April 2017.

Sinn Féin does not specify a date, but suggests donations should be declared openly as soon as possible.

Since the NIO letters were made public, Conor Murphy said: "For several years the Sinn Féin position on political donations has been that all donations over £500 should be published.

"During a round table session of the recent talks Sinn Féin also made it clear that we supported the retrospective publication from January 2014 of all donations over the reportable threshold."

The SDLP says it should be up to the secretary of state to set a date.

Alliance's David Ford this week accused Mr Brokenshire of offering "feeble excuses" for not making the publication retrospective.

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew said that the move was "long overdue but falls short, as past details will remain hidden".

The Electoral Commission welcomed the move made last Monday, but said it hoped to see legislation brought in to allow it to publish donations from 2014 onwards.

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