Northern Ireland

NI Secretary seeks parties' views on funding clarity

James Brokenshire
Image caption James Brokenshire said voters in Northern Ireland would welcome more information about how their political parties are funded

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is writing to political parties in NI asking whether the time is right for "full transparency" of political donations and loans.

Unlike the rest of the UK, Stormont parties are not required to reveal the sources of their funding.

This is due to concerns about the security of donors.

But the political and security context had "changed significantly" since the last consultation, said Mr Brokenshire.

"Voters in Northern Ireland will also welcome more information about how their political parties are funded," he said.

"I would now like to seek views on whether the time is now right to move towards full transparency on donations and loans and to implement a change to the rules as soon as possible, bringing Northern Ireland into step with the wider UK."

The Electoral Commission said it welcomed the announcement.

"We have consistently called for increased transparency on how political parties are funded in Northern Ireland," it said in a statement.

"Such a move will only help to increase public confidence in the democratic process.

"We look forward to hearing the outcome of this consultation and are ready to work closely with the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) to progress this issue."

Steven Agnew and Clare Bailey of the Green Party in Northern Ireland discussed the issue with officials from the NIO on Thursday.

Mr Agnew said that while "donations continue to go unpublished, voters are denied the opportunity to understand the links between businesses and our politicians".

He said the party would respond in "a positive way" to the invitation.

Image caption When Naomi Long was an MP she secured legislative change relating to the issue

Earlier this week, Belfast City councillors voted in support of a call to reveal the names of those who make large donations to Northern Ireland politicians.

Alliance wants NI to be brought in line with Great Britain where names of those who donate over £7,500 are published.

When Alliance leader Naomi Long was an MP she secured legislative change that paved the way for the possible future identification of donors who contributed more than £7,500 since January 2014.

However, the names can only be published if Northern Ireland's secretary of state agrees to lift an exemption.

More on this story