Huge donations for Alliance at end of last year, but taxpayers funding most parties

Naomi Long’s party got  £57,000 from the Joseph Rowntree  Reform TrustNaomi Long’s party got  £57,000 from the Joseph Rowntree  Reform Trust
Naomi Long’s party got £57,000 from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust
The Alliance Party received more in major private donations than any other Northern Ireland political party over the final three months of 2019, new figures have revealed.

The money overwhelmingly came from one source – the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust which gave Naomi Long’s party £57,500 between October and December.

The party also received £15,000 from former Liberal Democrat peer Lord Matthew Oakeshott and £10,000 from Gilbert Nesbitt.

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The only other party to register a major private donation was £2,000 which Creagh Concrete gave to the SDLP’s Mid Ulster branch just six days after December’s general election.

Only donations over £7,500 to central party funds or £1,500 to party accounting units such as constituency associations have to be made public.

The figures reveal that most parties are funded in large part by taxpayers, via various income streams from public funds.

However, the information – which until two years ago was never released in Northern Ireland – also reveals that over recent years the DUP and Sinn Féin secured massive borrowing agreements with two banks.

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The DUP agreed a £100,000 credit facility with Danske Bank in February 2016, the month after Arlene Foster became leader, with an ability to borrow at 4% above the Bank of England base rate. The facility is due to end in November.

Sinn Féin secured a credit facility three times that size – for £300,000 – with Bank of Ireland, paying 4.25% above the base rate for money borrowed that way. Sinn Féin is by far the richest party in Northern Ireland, having received millions in a recent will from a mysterious man called William E Hampton.