Foster and Nesbitt follow tax return trend

First Minister Arlene Foster
First Minister Arlene Foster

Party leaders in Northern Ireland are following the trend set in Westminster by publishing details of their own tax affairs.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster’s tax return for 2014-15 showed she earned £78,200 and paid £20,500 in tax.

First Minster Arlene Foster.

Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

First Minster Arlene Foster. Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said he had “no difficulty” publishing the normally confidential information.

Speaking to the BBC, he said it had “become an issue of public concern and public interest” that political figures should be “open and transparent”.

Mr Nesbitt, who also published his P60, added: “If we want to be leaders in society, we have to be upfront, transparent and move things forward.”

David Ford said he would be speaking to his accountant with a view to publishing his tax return as quickly as possible.

The Alliance leader said his income is derived solely from his work as an MLA and minister, “plus a small amount of interest from a building society savings account, minus the interest I pay on the mortgage on a small family farm”.

He added: “If we are to improve the levels of confidence in the political system, then we need to let the public know who is funding our political parties.

“If the veil of secrecy is not lifted, suspicion will only continue to fester among the public.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he “will gladly publish my very boring tax returns”.

Mr Eastwood said: “I think everybody who is a senior politician in this country should do the same.”

A Sinn Fein spokesman said Martin McGuinness will also publish details of his tax affairs.