Donations to NI parties to be published

Future donations to political parties in Northern Ireland are to be published, the British Government has announced.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire confirmed the legislative move as he updated the House of Commons on the powersharing impasse at Stormont.

Lifting the veil of anonymity over donations was a pledge in the Conservative Party's Northern Ireland manifesto.

However, Mr Brokenshire declined to exercise his legislative ability to backdate publication of donation details to the start of 2014.

After reporting to British MPs on the continuing stand-off at Stormont, he added: "One area on which there is much consensus however is on the need for greater transparency on political donations and, in line with the commitment set out in the Conservative Party's Northern Ireland manifesto for the General Election, I can confirm that I intend to bring forward legislation that will provide for the publication of all donations and loans received by Northern Ireland parties on or after the 1st of July 2017."

The Alliance Party's David Ford accused Mr Brokenshire of offering "feeble excuses" for not making the publication retrospective.

"There are many questions as to why donations during the Brexit campaign, during the election campaigns of this year and the election campaign of last year are not fully transparent and open," he said.

"At a time when there is such deep cynicism in this society about the political process, his failure to address that issue properly can only enhance that suspicion and that cynicism.

"We need to see openness, we need to see full transparency and we need to see Parliament backdating that to January 1 2014."

Ann Watt, head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland which regulates party finances, said she expected the first donation and loan report to be published in the autumn.

"The Electoral Commission has consistently called for increased transparency on how political parties are funded in Northern Ireland.

"We will work closely with the UK Government and the political parties to deliver changes to the publication of donations and loans in Northern Ireland.

"While all reportable donations and loans received from 1 July 2017 will now be published by the commission, we would also like to see the necessary legislation put in place, as soon as possible, to allow us to publish details of donations and loans received since January 2014.

"Such a move will only help to further enhance today's positive announcement on future transparency."

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