Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein could receive more donations as Allister calls for NCA investigation

Jim Allister
Jim Allister
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

Sinn Fein have not ruled out further party donations from the late William E Hampton.

The total amount of the 82-year-old's estate is worth almost £2.6m.

After leaving £8,000 to four other benefactors, including Labour MP Dennis Skinner and investigative journalist Paul Halloran, after his death in January 2018, Sinn Fein received instalments of £1m and £500,000 in April and May of this year.

That left £1,091,605 unaccounted for.

A party spokesperson said the probate process is ongoing and Mr Hampton's assets are still being disposed of.

"Sinn Fein will of course declare any further donation in compliance with the Electoral Commission," he said.

At the time of writing his will in 1997, Mr Hampton was living in a mobile home in Ireland and his estate included assets in England, Ireland, Singapore and New Zealand.

TUV leader Jim Allister has now raised the donation that Sinn Fein received with the National Crime Agency (NCA).

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, UUP MLA Steve Aiken and SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan also believe there should be more transparency surrounding what is the largest ever donation to a Northern Ireland political party.

Mr Allister wrote to Lynne Owens, the director general of the NCA yesterday, asking if the organisation had looked into Mr Hampton's assets and if there was nothing "untoward" in the donation to Sinn Fein.

He told the Belfast Telegraph that there are matters "crying out" for investigation.

The DUP's Mr Donaldson compared the £1.5m gift Sinn Fein received to the £435,000 donation the DUP were given by the Constitutional Research Council in the build up to the Brexit referendum.

He believes that the Electoral Commission should investigate the gift following Sinn Fein's "demands" to have their donation examined in 2018.

Mr Aiken added that full openness and transparency into the donation would be "very useful".

He added: "Particularly, as we seem to be heading towards a general election.

"It just seems quite fortuitous that Sinn Fein have inherited £1.5m at this stage."

Mr Durkan said that, while he was not "jumping to any conclusion", he feels that it is in everyone's interests to clarify the source of the £1.5m.

The Electoral Commission confirmed that they will not be investigating the gift to Sinn Fein by Mr Hampton, adding that it is up to a political party to check the "permissibility" of donations.

"The donation reported by the party was permissible as the donor was on a UK electoral roll within the five-year period prior to his death," it said.

"Political parties must report all donations and loans over £7,500 if accepted by the central party and over £1,500 if accepted by an accounting unit.

"Political parties must only accept donations from permissible donors."

The NCA was contacted for comment but it had not responded at the time of going to print.

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