Sinn Féin MLAs donate tens of thousands of pounds back to party coffers
SINN Féin elected representatives gave tens of thousands of pounds back to party coffers over a six month period beginning last July, new figures reveal.
The sums from individual MLAs have been published by the Electoral Commission which, after new rules were passed last week, is free for the first time to reveal the names of donors to Northern Ireland registered parties.
The figures cover the half-year term between July and December 2017.
The nine political parties who registered donations above the £500 threshold collectively received more £830,000, with a approximately three-quarters of total income coming from government.
The DUP and Sinn Féin, the two parties with the greatest electoral representation, received the lion's share of government funds.
The DUP received £287,000 of public money, while Sinn Féin drew down £331,000 over the same six month period.
The figures show that Alliance received two separate £7,500 donations from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust and £30,00 of public funds.
The DUP received £4,999 from London-based Gross Hill Properties, which paid the money through the party's North Antrim Westminster Association.
The SDLP received £51,000 of public funds, while the Ulster Unionists banked £48,000.
The Greens £24,700 from the assembly and the TUV drew down £13,400.
Individual Sinn Féin MLAs, who under party rules receive an 'average industrial wage', donated money to the party in sums varying from £537 to more than £1,500.
People Before Profit's sole MLA Gerry Carroll donated to his own party, which received a total of £19,850 in donations and public funds.
The details also show the regional Conservatives received donations of almost £8,000 from its parent party in Britain.
Regional head of the Electoral Commission, Ann Watt, said: "For over ten years political parties in Northern Ireland have been required to report information on the donations and loans that they have received, but we have been prohibited from publishing this information.
“Transparency is an essential component to increasing public confidence in the democratic process – information on how political parties, candidates and other campaigners raise and spend money should be open to timely public scrutiny."
Ms Watt urged the British government to "enhance this transparency" by bringing forward legislation that enabled the watchdog to publish donations and loans dating back to January 2014.