NI political parties receive £300k in donations

By Jayne McCormack
BBC News NI Political Reporter

  • Published
cheque being written
Image caption,
There has been criticism that the law around political donations does not provide enough openness or transparency

NI's political parties received almost £300,000 in donations and from public funds between January and March 2018.

The details have been published by the Electoral Commission.

It shows Belfast International Airport gave £4,000 to the DUP's North Antrim Westminster Association.

Of all the donations to parties, the only other one listed outside a company or a public fund was £2,000 from James Kingan to the Ulster Unionist Party's North Down Association.

The bulk of the cash received by Northern Ireland's parties came from public funds.

That is grants from the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Electoral Commission, which they are entitled to in line with the votes they attract.

In total, Northern Ireland's parties received £277,039 - from 1 January to 31 March 2018.

The breakdown

  • Democratic Unionist Party - £107,848
  • Sinn Féin - £80,327
  • SDLP - £27,481
  • Alliance Party - £18,615
  • Ulster Unionist Party - £25,926
  • Green Party - £16,842

The Electoral Commission said Sinn Féin had failed to meet the deadline for reporting donations for the first quarter of 2018.

Ann Watt, head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, said that was "disappointing", but she welcomed "the public scrutiny and transparency" that publishing the data brought to the democratic process.

In March, legislation was passed at Westminster to allow donations and loans of more than £7,500 to parties in Northern Ireland to be revealed for the first time.

It also says parties must report details of donations of more than £1,500 to their constituency associations.

However, the law only covers donations made to parties from 1 July 2017 onwards.

The decision not to back date the publication of donations prompted criticism about transparency.

Until this year, Northern Ireland was exempt from UK rules that required donations over £7,500 from a single source to a political party to be made public.