Political news

Mystery surrounds Electoral Commission investigation into political donation

The Electoral Commission regulates polls and political parties' spending

MYSTERY surrounds an Electoral Commission investigation into political donations after all of Northern Ireland's main political parties denied involvement.

The commission revealed yesterday that it has investigated two separate donations but said it is legally prevented from disclosing the details.

Legislation only requires information on donations made after July 2017 to be published.

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The commission said it was unable to decide if the rules were broken in both cases and expressed "regret" at not being able to publish the details.

The Alliance Party later admitted it was the subject of one of the investigations, after assembly member Andrew Muir failed to declare a trip paid for by the US government during his time as a councillor in Ards and North Down.

The party said Mr Muir had "declared his participation" to the council but was unaware he also needed to declare the trip, which included hospitality, to the Electoral Commission.

"He rectified that as soon as it was made clear and apologised for his lateness," the party said.

"The commission made no determination of an offence in this case.

"Openness and transparency is of the utmost importance to Alliance, illustrated by the party leading on declaring political donations."

Andrew Muir of the Alliance Party

None of the other main Stormont parties have confirmed a link to the second investigation into political donations.

Sinn Féin, the UUP, SDLP, Green, TUV and People Before Profit have all denied any involvement in the inquiry.

A DUP spokesman told the BBC his party was not the subject of the Electoral Commission investigation.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: "This does not add up - there was an investigation and clearly some party must be aware of it".

Louise Edwards, director of regulation at the Electoral Commission, said: "We regret that we are unable to disclose information about donations prior to July 1 2017.

"We continue to urge the UK government to bring forward legislation that will enable us to publish information on donations from January 2014.

"This would give transparency and confidence to voters in Northern Ireland."

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