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No action taken yet on political donation transparency pledge

James Brokenshire said he would move 'quickly' to address political donations. Picture by David Young/PA Wire

Secretary of State James Brokenshire has yet to indicate when he plans to act on his pre-election pledge to move "quickly" to provide greater transparency around political donations in the north.

When launching the Conservatives' regional manifesto last month, the secretary of state said disclosure around party funding would help boost public confidence into the political system.

Historically, the names of political donors to the region's parties have been kept secret for security reasons but advocates of greater transparency argue such restrictions are no longer necessary.

Revelations around a £425,000 donation to the DUP which bankrolled an expensive four-page Vote Leave advertisement in the British Metro newspaper last June brought the issue of political donors to the fore during the election campaign.

The money was given to the DUP by a pro-union group called the Constitutional Research Council but it is not clear how the group, chaired by former vice chairman of the Scottish Conservatives Richard Cook, raised the funds.

Mr Brokenshire said at the manifesto launch that it was in the north's interests to see the disclosure restrictions lifted.

"As an incoming Conservative government, if we are re-elected, I do see that as important in re-injecting a sense of confidence in our political system here in Northern Ireland," he said.

However, the Northern Ireland Office yesterday indicated that despite the pledge to move "quickly" there is so far there is no timescale for addressing the issue of party donations.

"The secretary of state is keen to make progress on this issue and indeed it is a government manifesto commitment," an NIO spokesman said.

"This will be an important subject of discussion with the political parties over the coming weeks."

Green Party leader Steven Agnew urged the secretary of state to honour his pledge and move quickly to compel all the region's parties to publish donation details.

"With the stroke of a pen James Brokenshire can show his impartiality and advance a transparent political environment," he said,

"The DUP are talking to the Conservatives about a supply and confidence deal – they must supply donation details to instil some much needed confidence following the 'dark money' episode."

The North Down MLA also called on the SDLP to follow the Green's lead and unilaterally publish the names of party donors.

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