Belfast Telegraph

Identity of donors to remain secret

Northern Ireland political parties are to be allowed to keep the identity of their financial donors private, government has confirmed.

Northern Ireland Office minister Hugo Swire said he wanted to see greater transparency, but feared that the possibility of intimidation for those funding parties remained a possibility.

He said government would therefore extend confidentiality arrangements for a further two years, but would seek to find new ways of opening up the process.

"I recognise and support the desire for full transparency in politics and on the funding of political parties in particular," he said. "But I accept with regret that there remain concerns in Northern Ireland about intimidation which makes it difficult to achieve this.

"I will therefore bring forward secondary legislation to ensure that donor identities in Northern Ireland remain protected until 2013."

He added: "I also believe that there is a case for greater transparency in the current system and we will continue to examine the possibility of bringing forward further legislation to achieve this."

The law currently provides for donations and loans above certain thresholds to be reported to the Electoral Commission, but the details are not made public.

The confidentially arrangements were due to expire at the end of October last year. The government decision on the issue followed a consultation which closed on October 25 and received a total of 26 responses.

But Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty called for an end to the policy.

He added: "In response to this consultation we demanded an end to the practice of secret donations and also called for the current £7,500 threshold for reportable individual donations to be lowered to £500."

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