Belfast Telegraph

Government begins process to name Northern Ireland party donors

By Jonathan Bell

The UK Government has begun the process to allow donors to Northern Ireland political parties to be published.

It comes after the Electoral Commission strongly criticised the government for not having the legislation in place on Thursday morning.

The Secretary of State James Brokenshire announced in July his intent to lift the veil of anonymity on donations of more than £7,500 made after July 1 2017. Originally it had been proposed the publication would be back-dated to 2014.

The Electoral Commission said it intended to publish the first set of donations on Thursday, but was frustrated at the law not being in place to allow it to do so.

There is nothing to stop Northern Ireland's political parties revealing their donations themselves.

On Thursday evening the government announced it had begun the process of legislating for the donations.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: "There remains widespread support for full transparency among the people of Northern Ireland.

"There has been a welcome recognition by the political parties of the importance of transparency to the broader political process and confidence in the democratic process.

"In line with that aim, we have brought secondary legislation before Parliament that would provide for the publication of all donations and loans received by Northern Ireland parties. This would take effect in respect of donations and loans received on or after 1 July 2017."

The Electoral Commission welcomed the move.

Ann Watt, head of the organisation said: "We are pleased that the UK Government has acted to make this important change a reality.

"Transparency in how our political parties are funded is key to ensuring public trust and confidence in the democratic process. We hope to be able to begin publishing this information early in the New Year.”

It is thought the donations will not be made public until January at the earliest given the parliamentary timetable to pass the legislation.

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