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SDLP leader Ritchie’s u-turn on political donations promise

By David Gordon

The SDLP's support for party donor secrecy contradicts a personal pledge by Margaret Ritchie just before she became party leader.

Ms Ritchie stated earlier this year: “I believe that the time has come for the public to know who exactly provides the financial fuel that keeps party political |machines in operation.”

She also told party members the SDLP would make donation details public within weeks of her becoming leader.

That has not happened and instead the party is now pressing for the secrecy arrangements to be retained.

Ms Ritchie's pledges were made in a position paper leaked to this newspaper at the start of the year.

The document, circulated to party members during the leadership campaign, said the SDLP should take “a lead in rebuilding trust in politics in the North”.

It also said: “We must rebuild trust between the political parties and the electorate.

“We must develop a new contract with voters based on openness, honesty and integrity.”

A party spokesman yesterday said the SDLP wanted to move to donation transparency, but the conditions are not right at present.

“We are working towards a goal of total transparency but we want the government to assess the political and security conditions. We will happily abide by their decision.

“The SDLP are committed to the principles of openness, transparency and accountability in the funding of political parties in the context of a normal and modern democratic society.

“Given the present security situation and the threat from dissidents, a number of donors have expressed concerns about their personal security if their names were placed in the public domain,” he added.

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