Belfast Telegraph

Jeffrey Donaldson: DUP has shown commitment to transparency, other parties must reciprocate

By Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, MP

It's been eight months and a day since we did it and I still can't stop smiling at the memory.

Brexit: be honest, no matter how much you hoped it would happen, how much did you really think it was going to? I've got to admit, no matter how long I campaigned for Brexit, there were more than a few moments last summer when even I thought we just won't do it.

Read More: Revealed: Group that funded DUP's £425,000 Brexit ad campaign

The forces that ranged against us, from David Cameron and Barack Obama to the IMF and Eddie Izzard, were just too strong.

But the British people spoke, and Brexit won.

I served as the DUP's national campaign director during the referendum and I'd like to tell you how we did our bit to help restore the parliamentary sovereignty of this country and give to the British people the opportunity to once again govern our own affairs.

The first thing we did was register with the Electoral Commission as a participant.

This meant that we were, in theory, able to spend up to £700,000 in campaigning for Brexit.

I don't want to give away the ending, but as you may have gleaned during the last 40 years of consistent DUP opposition to EU membership, we were for Leave.

Pro-Remain parties in Northern Ireland, like Sinn Fein, Mike Nesbitt's UUP and the Alliance were free to register, fundraise, and campaign. None of these parties did so, and yet they now complain about the outcome.

We are not a wealthy party, and therefore to finance our national campaign the DUP raised funds.

This seems to have surprised some people. I'm not sure why when one considers the importance of the issues at stake in the referendum.

The Lib Dems were for Remain. They raised money to spend on their principled, decades-long position. They spent it.

The DUP was for Leave. We raised money; we spent it on our position, which we've held since the party was founded. Who donated to us?

Well, the sole reason why donors to political causes in Northern Ireland are not publicly identified is due to Sinn Fein's murderous legacy.

It's as simple as that. The dogs in the street know it. Even the BBC knows it.

Republican terrorists have previously targeted political donors.

But here's the thing, even though the law exists for good reason, we have secured the permission of our donors to name them.

They're the CRC - the Constitutional Research Council - a group which supports constitutional pro-Union causes. They believed, as did we, that Brexit would be good for the Union and bad for those who oppose it.

You only have to listen to the outraged squeals of nationalists both here and in Scotland to see just how right we were.

Nationalists are opposed to Brexit because they think it's bad for nationalism.

They see precisely the harm Brexit has done to their nationalist aspirations and will do to their future separatist ambitions.

I thank the CRC for choosing to donate to us, and, modesty to one side, I hope for our part we ran a campaign worthy of the cause.

Thanks to their generous donation, we spent £425,622 throughout the UK, including in Northern Ireland on a variety of pro-Leave advertising media.

From social media, to things as old-fashioned as posters and T-shirts, to, I think, most eye-catchingly of all, a wraparound advert in Metro, the freesheet newspaper. Personally I think this was a great success and the positive feedback that we received from across the UK reinforces our view that it was right for a Northern Ireland party to put its shoulder to the wheel of the national campaign.

We did not seek to hide in any way our participation or our enthusiasm for Brexit.

On every single piece of media we produced for our Leave campaign, my name was on them as national campaign director.

From the shirts to the posters to the ads, our party details were there for all to see. I am proud to have had the chance to secure a victory that I and my colleagues have sought since we entered politics.

In providing this level of transparency, I have some questions for the other Northern Ireland parties.

For the UUP, why didn't you believe this referendum was important enough to register for the national campaign? Does your unionism not extend to campaigning in other parts of the kingdom on a national issue of this significance?

For the SDLP, we look forward to your disclosure of the secret donations you have received using the loophole of bringing money in from the Irish Republic.

Who are these foreign donors and how much have they given you?

Then to Sinn Fein, you piously called for transparency about political donations.

You use the same loophole as the SDLP to sneak your money in through the back door of the Irish Republic.

The US-based Friends of Sinn Fein' has raised more than $12 million (£9.56m). How have you spent that money?

The public has not a clue what Sinn Fein does with it.

We have today gone far further than any of the other main Northern Ireland political parties.

Will they now do the same? Will they now instruct the Electoral Commission to release all the names of their donors over £7,500?

If they won't, why not? What was all that talk about transparency then?

Throughout the country nationalism loathes their defeat in Brexit and is in no fit state to negotiate for the people

Having fought so hard to secure this victory, the DUP, not least at Westminster, is the party best-placed to secure Northern Ireland the best deal under Brexit.

We ask for your support to achieve this.

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