Political donors in Northern Ireland set to be named

The UK government has pressed ahead with legislation to publish the names of major political donors in Northern Ireland - hours after the Electoral Commission criticised a delay.

NI Secretary of State James Brokenshire announced in July his intent to lift the veil of anonymity on donations.

It had been a pledge in the UK Conservative Party's Northern Ireland general election manifesto.

On Thursday morning the Electoral Commission expressed frustration that laws to give effect to the move had still not been passed.

The Commission said it had expected to be in a position to publish the first set of data on donations to Northern Ireland political parties on Thursday, alongside the information on donations in Great Britain.

It said it was "extremely disappointed" and said the "continuing secrecy" only served to "undermine trust and confidence amongst the public in the democratic process".

On Thursday afternoon, the Government announced it had laid the legislation before Parliament, starting its journey toward becoming law.

Ann Watt, head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, welcomed the move.

"We are pleased that the UK Government has acted to make this important change a reality," she said.

"Transparency in how our political parties are funded is key to ensuring public trust and confidence in the democratic process. We hope to be able to begin publishing this information early in the new year."

The names of political donors in Northern Ireland have long been kept confidential due to security concerns dating back to the Troubles.

Mr Brokenshire has already faced criticism for declining to exercise his legislative ability to backdate publication of donation details to the start of 2014.

The name of individuals who donate more than £7,500 (€8,500) after July 1 2017 will be made public.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: "There remains widespread support for full transparency among the people of Northern Ireland.

"There has been a welcome recognition by the political parties of the importance of transparency to the broader political process and confidence in the democratic process.

"In line with that aim, we have brought secondary legislation before Parliament that would provide for the publication of all donations and loans received by Northern Ireland parties."

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