Northern Ireland news

DUP pledges to reveal Brexit advert donor's identity

Jeffrey Donaldson said his party was working with the Electoral Commission with a view to revealing the identity of the mystery donor

The DUP has said it will today reveal the identity of the group that bankrolled its pro-Brexit adverts in the British press.

MP Jeffrey Donaldson has said the party wanted to be "as open and transparent as possible" and was yesterday working with the Electoral Commission with a view to publishing the secret donor's details.

The timing of its planned revelation coincides with the deadline for Secretary of State James Brokenshire to answer two parliamentary questions from Green MP Caroline Lucas about party donors.

The MP for Brighton Pavilion tabled the questions earlier this week when she told The Irish News the "extremely large secret donations" to the DUP raised serious questions over the funding of the Leave campaign.

When quizzed on the donation last week, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the money – estimated to be as much as £250,000 – came from "an organisation in England that wants to see the union kept and make sure we can have a United Kingdom".

The mystery organisation paid for a wraparound advert in free newspaper Metro just days before the EU referendum. Because all political donations in Northern Ireland are confidential, it is thought the donor chose the DUP as the advert's sponsor to deliberately avoid publicity.

Mr Donaldson said: "We are looking into it at the moment with the Electoral Commission.

"We will make our position clear once we have gone through all of the issues with the Electoral Commission."

However, a subsequent statement from the Electoral Commission contradicted the Lagan Valley MP.

"The Electoral Commission has had no discussions with the DUP on the issue of publishing donor information," the statement read.

"The commission is legally bound to retain confidentiality about donations to political parties in Northern Ireland."

Earlier Mr Donaldson's party colleague Edwin Poots expressed hope that the information would be available as early as today.

Pressure has been mounting on the DUP to reveal how the cash was raised for a costly Brexit campaign.

Alliance party leader Naomi Long said the secretary of state James Brokenshire has the power to publish details of political donations and urged him to do so.

A Northern Ireland Office spokesman said Mr Brokenshire was "keen to make progress" on the issue but that it would not be before the March election.

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