Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin and SDLP say questions remain over DUP Brexit benefactors

The pro-Brexit ad that appeared in the Metro newspaper

THE DUP has been urged to detail exactly who was behind the donation it received in last year's EU referendum campaign.

The party revealed that its £425,000 Brexit campaign was bankrolled by pro-Union group the Constitutional Research Council.

It had been under mounting pressure to make public the name of the mystery donor who enabled it to promote its Leave message on a UK-wide basis, including the purchase of an expensive four-page Vote To Leave EU advertisement in the British Metro newspaper - a publication not circulated in Northern Ireland.

The CRC is a group of pro-Union business figures chaired by former vice chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party Richard Cook.

The names of donors in Northern Ireland are automatically withheld due to Troubles-era rules which sought to protect their security. That had prompted speculation that prominent Leave campaigners were using the DUP to support the Leave campaign without the need to publish their names.

This suggestion was rejected by the party.

It later emerged that the DUP transferred £9,000 from the donation it received for its Brexit campaign into normal party funds.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said last night that "serious questions remain" and called on the DUP to explain why the money was funnelled through their party.

"Under pressure, the DUP has finally revealed that their Brexit benefactor is the little known Constitutional Research Council. But the admission raises serious questions about the group's origin, makeup and agenda," he said.

"Brexit is the biggest economic, social and constitutional threat to this island since partition. People here realised that and voted to remain in Europe. They deserve to know why this organisation funnelled money through the DUP to fund campaign adverts outside of Northern Ireland.

"The collapse of the Executive underlines the urgent need for transparency in government here. The DUP must provide that transparency immediately."

Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd last nigth challenged the DUP to tell the public exactly who was involved in the CRC.

"Huge questions still remain to be answered over exactly who funded the DUP's exorbitant pro-Brexit advertising campaign," he said.

"The public are entitled to know exactly who is involved in this group, where the money came from and whether or not the DUP are still being bankrolled by this mystery organisation.

"It is up to the DUP to make this information known to the public in the interests of transparency and integrity before we go to the polls on Thursday so that voters can make an informed choice."

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