Belfast Telegraph

Political party donor lists 'should be published to avoid corruption'

A leading anti-corruption watchdog has called for greater transparency over party political funding in Northern Ireland.

Transparency International UK said draft laws to open up the funding to greater scrutiny should be introduced before the end of next year.

The precautionary withholding of donor information was used to protect the security of individuals and businesses after the end of the Troubles over fears they could still be targeted by paramilitaries.

A report by the lobby group for legal reform said: "Opacity poses a corruption risk and should be removed at the earliest possible opportunity."

In Great Britain, parties must report to the Electoral Commission all donations of more than £7,500, including smaller donations and loans that reach that amount from the same source over a calendar year. The names of donors are made public.

However, in Northern Ireland the information is not released due to security concerns.

In 2014, the UK Parliament passed a law to enable contributions to be made publicly available.

Some parties are already publishing their donations online voluntarily.

However, arrangements for Northern Ireland still have not been brought into line with the rest of the UK, Transparency International said.

Its report said: "The UK coalition government published and consulted on draft secondary legislation that would introduce transparency over the funding of Northern Irish political parties.

"This should now be brought before Parliament to show the current UK Government it is committed to opening up politics to greater transparency."

Alliance acting leader Naomi Long said it was time for parties in Northern Ireland to come clean about who funds them.

She said: "For too long there has been secrecy about who is funding the political parties in Northern Ireland. While at Westminster I secured an amendment, which means that whenever the Secretary of State lifts the exemption, any such donation made since January 2014 will be made public.

"Alliance voluntarily publishes our large donor information and it is now time the other parties came clean and let the public know who is backing them. What have they to hide?

"They cannot cite security reasons when details of donations to individual election candidates are publicly available. Some time ago the DUP said they would publish details of donors, but so far have failed to follow the Alliance lead on transparency."


From Belfast Telegraph