Electoral Commission: We want to be able to publish donations to political parties

A letter from Cahir Hughes, head of Electoral Commission, Northern Ireland:

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 11:27 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 11:31 pm
Letter to the editor

I was disappointed to read an article published on Saturday May 8, written by Sam McBride entitled ‘Is Northern Bank cash in politics? Alarmingly, no one seems bothered’ (see link below).

The article accused the Electoral Commission of being “either unwilling or unable to act robustly over political funding”.

As the independent body which regulates political finance in the UK, the Electoral Commission prioritises public confidence in the transparency of political finance in Northern Ireland.

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All registered political parties, campaigners and other groups are required to report their finances to us. This includes donations they’ve been given and loans they’ve entered into; reports detailing what they’ve spent on their campaign after an election or referendum; and their annual accounts.

We publish all of the information we receive on our website, so the public can scrutinise the money received and spent by political parties, campaigners and other groups.

We have robust processes in place to ensure that what is reported to us complies with political finance rules. Where we find evidence of those rules being broken we will take action.

Information on the investigations we have undertaken and the sanctions we have imposed are also available for the public to see on our website.

It was also suggested in the article that others have done more to reveal key facts around party funding than the commission, particularly in relation to the EU referendum.

Under current legislation we are explicitly prohibited from publishing any information reported to us in Northern Ireland relating to political donations and loans which occurred before July 1 2017.

We have consistently called on the UK government to change the law to allow us to publish this information. Our most recent research in this area, published in February, confirms that the majority of the public agree that this information should be publically available.

Cahir Hughes, Head of Electoral Commission, Northern Ireland

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