Anti-Brexit unionist party that never contested an election tops donations table

Both Unions received almost £17,000 from its founding member John Stevens

THE largest single political donation in Northern Ireland over the past three months was to a party that has never contested an election in the region or is ever likely to.

Both Unions, an anti-Brexit unionist party that advocates a second EU referendum, was given almost £17,000 by founding member and former Tory MEP John Stevens.

The figure emerged yesterday as the Electoral Commission published details of political donations for the third quarter of 2018.

Both Unions, which believes Brexit poses an "existential threat to the union", registered in the north in September with the aim of contesting a by-election in North Antrim.

The potential for a by-election arose after Ian Paisley faced a recall petition following his suspension from Westminster in August for 30 sitting days.

The DUP MP's unprecedented ban came after he failed to declare two luxury family holidays in Sri Lanka paid for by its government and later lobbied on behalf of the south Asian island's regime.

However, the petition fell 444 signatures short of the necessary threshold that would have seen Mr Paisley unseated.

Speaking to The Irish News yesterday, Mr Stevens conceded that the money was effectively lost because Both Unions was unlikely to contest a future election in the north.

"The party was set up and the money specifically spent with the aim of contesting a by-election in North Antrim – as you know that never happened," he said.

The second largest single donation in the the three months to September 30 was £10,000 from Belfast International Airport to the regional arm of the Conservative Party.

Sinn Féin Martina Anderson gave her party £8,000, while her colleagues Órlaithí Flynn, Alex Maskey, Conor Murphy, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Carál Ní Chuilín and Declan McAleer dontaed sums ranging from £2,330 to £3,860.

Alliance was the beneficiary of £7,500 Alliance from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, while People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carrol gave his party £2,000.

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