Belfast Telegraph

Call for donors to be identified

More than 4,000 people have backed a campaign calling for the identification of party political donors in Northern Ireland, it was revealed.

The start of the new parliamentary session represents an opportunity to clean up politics, Friends of the Earth (FoE) said. The environmental lobby group handed over 4,500 postcards signed by members of the public calling on Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers to reveal who bankrolls local parties.

Benefactors are not named in Northern Ireland over fears they could be intimidated, unlike in Great Britain where gifts over a certain amount have to be declared.

FoE Northern Ireland director James Orr said: "It is time to sweep away the secrecy, rumours and mistrust.

"The Secretary of State has the power to reveal where Northern Ireland's political parties get their funds. She should listen to the people of Northern Ireland, not the parties trying to conceal the identities of their donors.

"What do they have to hide? The people of Northern Ireland would like to know."

This year DUP leader Peter Robinson said th e terrorism threat to donors should be taken seriously.

He cautioned against a cavalier attitude to full transparency and said business people had been attacked because of their association with the security forces or one section of the community.

The First Minister challenged the theory that donors received special favours and said he could not remember any donations to his party worth more than £5,000.

The East Belfast MLA also said disclosing party donations could be seen as indicating a preference for one of the two traditions of unionism or nationalism, thus having a commercial impact.

The Green Party in Northern Ireland also wants to name major donors.

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