Belfast Telegraph

Labour slams 'cover-up' of pro-Brexit cash for DUP

By David Young, PA

The Government's failure to backdate the naming of political donors in Northern Ireland "stinks" of a deliberate bid to mask a huge Brexit-backing donation to the DUP, Labour has claimed.

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith alleged the decision to publish donations from 2017 onward, rather than exercising the power to backdate to 2014, meant the £435,000 donation to the DUP during the 2016 referendum campaign would not be covered by the law change.

Mr Smith levelled the claim in a Westminster committee as opposition MPs failed in a bid to halt the Government's timetable to finally lift the veil of secrecy on political donations in Northern Ireland.

"Unfortunately, this affair stinks", he told members of the Third Delegated Legislation committee.

"It stinks because the government has chosen to come up with a date of July 2017, which deliberately excludes from publication the DUP donation - the largest donation in the history of Northern Ireland politics, the biggest item of political campaigning expenditure in the history of Northern Ireland politics."

A total of £435,000 was given to the DUP 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. It helped pay for a four page pro-Brexit wrap-around advert in the Metro newspaper, a publication not distributed in Northern Ireland.

Mr Smith claimed the CRC was "shady" and questioned whether the DUP had been used to channel pro-Brexit money that could not be used by others involved in the Leave campaign due to spending caps.

The DUP's Sammy Wilson said he was "amazed" at Mr Smith's claims. He suggested Labour was motivated by "animosity" to those who voted Leave, rather than by concern about the donation issue.

The East Antrim MP noted the Electoral Commission was satisfied with the bona fides of the CRC and with the details provided about its donation to the DUP.

Belfast Telegraph

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