Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Openness call over party donations

A watchdog says that greater transparency is needed around donations to political partiesin Northern Ireland

Greater transparency is needed around donations to Northern Ireland political parties, a government-appointed watchdog said.

A timetable should be introduced for making the gifts public, with all details published except those that would identify the donor, the Committee on Standards in Public Life added.

The identity of those who give money to parties in Northern Ireland remains secret. Parties elsewhere in the UK must report the identity of the source of donations worth more than £7,500.

The report said: "The committee regards transparency as a foundation block in building public confidence in the political system.

"It is important that Northern Ireland voters are given information as soon as the political situation permits about the funding of their political parties, particularly those in charge of major budgets and decisions.

"It would be helpful if the Government were now to publish a timetable for the introduction of full transparency on the same basis as in the rest of the UK."

The UK-wide report's main recommendation is for a cap on individual donations of £10,000.

The committee wants more details published by 2015, including the extent to which party donations come from Irish citizens living outside the UK.

It also recommends that policy development grants linked to a party's representation at Westminster should be made available to parties with significant representation at Stormont. The DUP and SDLP receive these grants but Sinn Fein does not because its representatives do not take their seats in the House of Commons.

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