Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Party donors 'should stay secret'

Northern Ireland will not yet be required to disclose the name of its political donors, Theresa Villiers has announced

It is a pity new legislation designed to make politics in Northern Ireland more transparent will not force parties to publish the names of their financial donors, Theresa Villiers said.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said while she wanted to make the law around donations the same as in the rest of the United Kingdom, it was not possible amid fears political donors could be subjected to violent reprisals.

Under a new Bill drawn up by the Government, she will be able to release the name of some donors from September next year if they agree to their identities being put in to the public domain.

Mrs Villiers told the House of Commons she envisaged a situation where other details, such as the amount of a donation to a political party, the type of donor, and whether the gift came from an Irish source, could be released in future.

But she said it was still not possible to completely lift the anonymity provisions currently afforded to political donors Northern Ireland.

Introducing details of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill at second reading in the Commons, Ms Villiers said the Government was committed to making politics around Stormont more transparent.

She said: "As the House may well be aware, Northern Ireland is currently subject to different transparency rules from the rest of the United Kingdom when it comes to political donations.

"The concern has always been the publication of donor names could deter people from making political donations because of fear of violent reprisals. Now let me be very clear here today: the Government's ultimate goal is full transparency with the rules in Northern Ireland brought into line with the rest of the United Kingdom.

"But having considered this matter carefully, we have concluded that the security situation has not improved sufficiently to enable us to do that and that it is not yet right to start publishing donor names."

Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon (North Down) said the "the vast majority" of people in Northern Ireland wanted anonymity for political donations removed.

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