Northern Ireland news

Delay in revealing political donors in north 'disappointing'

Secretary of State James Brokenshire announced in July his intent to make the names of political donors public
David Young, Press Association

The Electoral Commission has criticised the British government for failing to pass promised legislation to enable the names of major political donors in Northern Ireland to be made public.

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 Conservative Party's Northern Ireland general election manifesto.

But the Electoral Commission has expressed frustration that laws to give effect to the move have 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.

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

Ann Watt, head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, said: "We are extremely disappointed that we are unable to provide the public with the information they expected on how political parties in Northern Ireland are funded.

"The continuing secrecy only serves to undermine trust and confidence amongst the public in the democratic process.

"We were consulted by the Northern Ireland Office several months ago on draft legislation and provided detailed comments. In our view the legislation is ready to be laid in Parliament now.

"The Commission urges the UK government to immediately bring forward this legislation to allow us to publish this information as soon as possible."

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 after July 1 2017 will be made public.

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