Northern Ireland

Three out of four main NI parties in the red

The financial accounts of Northern Ireland's four main political parties have been published.

The figures are for 2009 when the parties faced large bills for fighting the European election.

Sinn Fein had the highest income at £1,177,727 and spent £1,183,693, while the DUP raised £348,191 and spent £480,158. The UUP spent £357,430 but took in £392,868.

The SDLP's income was £398,829 but it spent £499,583.

The party, which in 2008 posted a small profit, submitted its accounts before the deadline, but failed to include an auditor's report for its accounts as required by law.

The Electoral Commission said this meant its accounts were considered to be late and were still outstanding.

Late submission fine

Seamus Magee, head of the Electoral Commission's Northern Ireland office, said they hoped it would "prove to be a one-off mistake" but they would face a fine for late submission.

"The rules that we regulate demand that political parties, who play a crucial part in our democracy, are transparent about how much money they raise and how they spend it.

"Their annual statements of accounts help give that picture.

"Being able to view the accounts of a political party is particularly important in Northern Ireland, as it is the only source of information for anyone wishing to find out more about a political party's finances."

The Ulster Unionist Party was £400,000 in the red in 2007, but is now in profit for the first time in several years.

Profits were boosted by the decision to fight the European election with the Conservative Party who jointly funded the campaign.

Ulster Unionist Party treasurer Mark Cosgrove said they were enjoying a "record level of membership income" and had been "successful in gaining some donations which went through the Conservative Party".

"Asking people for money to support political causes is never easy but I think the cause of Unionism PLC and certainly the Ulster Unionist Party, when you look at the mess Northern Ireland's in, has never been greater," he said.

Sinn Fein's deficit is down from £33,000 in 2008 to almost £6,000.

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