Northern Ireland’s voters are to be asked whether secrecy should continue to surround donations to political parties here.
Unlike their counterparts in Britain and the Republic, the province's parties do not have to publicly declare donor details.
Their exemption from UK transparency law was due to expire later this year but has now been extended to March, pending consultation.
The 12-week consultation was launched yesterday by NIO minister Hugo Swire. It was revealed last week that secret donations to the four main parties in Northern Ireland in 2009 came to some £690,000. Sinn Fein received £462,856, followed by the DUP with £126,211.
Mr Swire said: “We all want to see full transparency in politics and on the funding of political parties in particular. But I accept there have been real concerns in Northern Ireland about intimidation which has made it difficult to achieve this to date.”
The public consultation paper is available at www.nio.gov.uk. Closing date for submissions is October 25.