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DUP 'has questions to answer' over donation used to fund pro-Brexit ads, says Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein has said the DUP need to answer questions over a donation used to fund a pro-Brexit adverts.

The sum of £435,000 was given to Northern Ireland's largest party by the Constitutional Research Council (CRC), a little-known Great Britain-based group of pro-union business figures, ahead of the EU referendum last year.

Part of it was used to buy a four-page supplement in the Metro freesheet in London and other British cities urging readers to vote Leave.

The DUP say the money was raised legitimately.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: "I believe that they have raised their money legitimately and we were delighted to receive the donation from them for the Brexit campaign."

He told the Open Democracy website: "We have published the details of that, we have complied not only with the law but we have gone much further than we were required."

Richard Cook, a former Scottish Conservative, chairs the CRC. He has rejected as laughable the suggestion that the group's funding is shadowy and denied some of it is foreign. The DUP's political opponents have queried the source of the CRC's money.

Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy said: "In the lead up to the Brexit referendum the DUP leadership were well aware of the disaster Brexit would be for our economy, our people, our public services and the Good Friday and other agreements.

“Yet they signed up to the leave campaign and accepted a donation of £425,622 from a previously unheard of shadowy group the Constitutional Research Council.

"This information was dragged out of the DUP on the back of a series of refusals to answer where the money came from, including whether it came from people associated with Saudi intelligence in contravention of the donation rules. 

"This is the same approach the DUP has adopted to other financial scandals such as Red Sky, NAMA and RHI.

"The DUP clearly has questions to answer on these scandals in order to demonstrate it is capable of behaving with integrity in government and treating people with equality and respect.

"But instead the DUP is engaging in distractions and avoiding the difficult questions.

"While the DUP continue to avoid questions, the public now has an opportunity to give them an answer."

Political gifts in Northern Ireland are kept confidential for fear of identifying donors, a legacy of the violent conflict.

The DUP has said the party voluntarily published details of the donor who helped fund the DUP's participation in the European referendum campaign, a step not taken by Sinn Fein which benefits from millions of pounds worth of US money.

DUP leader Arlene Foster accused the media of not subjecting other parties to the same examination of their finances.

Sinn Fein's Mairtin O Muilleoir has said the £282,000 cost of the advert was more than three times the amount spent by the DUP in last May's Stormont election.

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