Belfast Telegraph

More clarity is needed on Sinn Fein's money from the US: Long

By Suzanne Breen

Alliance leader Naomi Long has called for greater transparency around Sinn Fein's fundraising in the United States.

She was speaking as investigative news website The Detail claimed that while Sinn Fein is still raising millions of dollars in America, there has been a significant fall in the money reaching Northern Ireland following the tightening of donation regulations in 2007.

Mrs Long will meet the Electoral Commission to ask how the rules permit the party to use money classified as gifts.

She also plans to discuss the issue with Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

The Detail reported that records filed under the US Foreign Agent Registration Act show that Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland received over $180,000 (£138,000) - from its US fundraising arm, Friends of Sinn Fein, between 2012 and 2018.

The party told the website that this money did not represent donations but rather were accumulated gifts of less than £500 and the party was totally compliant with the rules on political donations and funding.

Sinn Fein said the identities of all US funders are passed to the American authorities in line with regulations there.

The Electoral Commission said it did not have oversight of monies falling below the £500 donation threshold, even when such funds accumulate to tens of thousands of pounds. The commission said political parties are duty bound to ensure that all donations are permissible.

While there is no allegation of wrongdoing, Mrs Long said: "The rules restricting overseas donations are there to prevent any undue foreign influence over politics here; create a level playing field between parties; and, allow the public to be confident that parties act in the public interest and not that of large donors. Transparency and confidence are both being undermined as a result of this aggregating process.

"While such gifts may be individually insignificant amounts, when aggregated in this way, they become very significant.

"As a result of what has been uncovered, I am meeting with the Electoral Commission and will also seek a meeting with the Secretary of State to ensure these issues are addressed urgently."

Sinn Fein said: "We engaged with the Electoral Commission over a two-year period to ensure that the systems put in place were in full compliance with the rules governing political donations.

"Sinn Fein is fully compliant with all funding regulations in Ireland and the US."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph