The DUP has not recently received any donations greater than £7,500 — but would be prepared to publish voluntarily gifts above that threshold, in line with electoral law in the rest of the UK, Peter Robinson said yesterday.
The DUP, UUP and SDLP have long argued against Great Britain-style transparency about political donors to Northern Ireland, something they say could lead to donors being intimidated.
But there have been concerns that in such an environment corruption could be more likely as planning powers now transfer to councillors who will not have to declare whether a developer is a major funder of their party.
Speaking as he launched the DUP manifesto for the European and local government polls in Belfast, Mr Robinson said: “The party officers have considered this issue. We’ve also checked and if we’d had declared donors we’d have had none to declare on the basis of the present criteria set out by the Westminster legislation for the rest of the UK.
“It is our view that we would be prepared to — even though by law we are not required to — if we had any donations beyond the figure set by the House of Commons, then we would be prepared to have that publicised.
“We don’t intend to take those large sums into the party; we don’t intend to have the party subject to any level of undue influence and that will obviously apply into the future.”
Mr Robinson repeated his party’s warning that the unionist vote could be “shredded” with so many pro-Union candidates in the European election. He said that in the 2009 European election more than 5,000 votes had been lost when Jim Allister was knocked out of the race because they did not transfer to other unionists.
But Mr Allister hit back, saying that he was urging his supporters to transfer to other unionists, and adding that in the last European election “Mrs [Diane] Dodds scraped in sub quota, and was very glad of 25,000 TUV transfers to even get her elected to the third seat”.
When asked whether his party supported withdrawal from the European Union, Mr Robinson said that the DUP wanted to have the EU reformed but added: “If it [a referendum] was [in] the present circumstances, we would be saying ‘these are not satisfactory terms’. We’ll see what the Prime Minister can negotiate.”
But Mrs Dodds said that the European election was not a referendum on the EU.
“Whatever the voters say on May 22, it will not alter our membership of the EU,” she said. The sitting MEP added that there was a need to “constructively engage with EU decision makers, not berate, antagonise and abuse them”.
Mrs Dodds said that, if re-elected, she would be defending British sovereignty and defending the single market.
She also committed to fighting EU efforts to cut quota and days at sea for fishermen and said she would argue for Peace IV funding to be aimed towards young people and victims of terrorism.