Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin spent £28,196 on campaigning in General Election

Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion with Michelle O'Neill during the General Election count for Foyle. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Digital staff

Almost £120,000 was spent by political parties campaigning in this year's general election, the Electoral Commission unveiled today, as it called for changes to the law to improve transparency in the UK’s political finance rules.

Sinn Féin spent £28,196, the most out of the 11 political parties that campaigned in Northern Ireland during the 2017 UK general election.

The Conservative and Unionist Party were second, spending £27,488. The DUP spent £21,802.

Three parties submitted nil returns. The other eight parties spent a combined £118,071. 

The 109 candidates who contested the election in Northern Ireland reported spending a total of £449,583.

Spending by political parties in NI at UKPGE 2017
Party Name Expenditure
Sinn Féin  £28,196
Conservative and Unionist Party £27,488
Democratic Unionist Party - DUP £21,802
Alliance  £17,105
Ulster Unionist Party £13,580
SDLP  £9,274
Green Party £501
Citizens Independent Social Thought Alliance £125
People Before Profit Alliance £0
The Workers Party  £0
Traditional Unionist Voice - TUV £0

Reported spend by non-party campaigners across the UK totaled more than £1.8 million. The Electoral Commission said this illustrated why it is important that there are rules about their funding and spending to ensure transparency for voters.

Under Northern Ireland’s electoral laws, political donations do not need to be publicly declared, a legacy from the Troubles, when funding a political party might make someone a target for terrorists.

Sir John Holmes, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said: “Most candidates, parties and campaigners comply with the rules. However, failures to comply can reduce transparency and damage voters’ confidence in elections, which is why breaches must be dealt with effectively.

"We want to work with the UK’s governments and legislatures to ensure further transparency about spending on digital and online campaigns, and to reassure voters accordingly. These changes should be in place ahead of the next scheduled national elections.”

The DUP came under fire following the the Brexit referendum campaign in 2016 after it emerged that they had received a donation of £425,000. The party bought a four-page, wrap-around cover advert in London's Metro newspaper promoting the Leave campaign, an extraordinary move that cost some £282,000. 

In February, after political pressure, the DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson revealed that the £425,000 donation was from a group called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC), chaired by former Scottish Conservative vice-chairman and Glasgow-based businessman, Richard Cook.

This sparked further questions about the ultimate source of the money. Mr Cook told The Sunday Times that the CRC had three other members, but declined to identify them. 

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