RHI scandal: council calls for an end to hidden donors

Alliance party councillor Kate Nicholl
Alliance party councillor Kate Nicholl

A motion calling for all political donations to finally be made public has been passed by Belfast City Council.

At a meeting on Tuesday night, Alliance Party councillor Kate Nicholl proposed a motion calling on member to recognise “the corrupting influence which money can have on the political decision- making process”, adding that it was “unacceptable” that donations to the Province’s parties remain in the shadows – unlike on mainland UK.

As reported previously, whilst donations of £7,500-plus to parties (or £1,500-plus to candidates or branches) are recorded in Northern Ireland by the Electoral Commission, publishing the details is forbidden.

The Secretary of State James Brokenshire has the power to reveal details of donations from 2014 onwards, but has not moved to do so.

The Alliance Party had written last week to Mr Brokenshire calling on him to act on this in the wake of the RHI scandal and the allegations of corruption which have arisen in connection with it.

Tuesday’s motion not only called upon him to lift this secrecy, but also said all parties should voluntarily publish their donations anyway.

It was carried 38 votes to 13 (with the DUP and Ulster Unionists making up the votes against).

The DUP attempted to formulate its own amendment to the Alliance’s motion.

It wanted to change the motion from reading that the council “calls on the new Secretary of State to immediately lift the exemption to reveal all declared donations to political parties since January 2014 and calls also on all political parties to voluntarily publish donations from this time”, to instead read that the council “calls on the new Secretary of State to introduce legislation at the earliest opportunity to implement the same donations regime in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK”.

He said this would also mean that the issue of donations received from outside the UK would be covered by the motion.

The DUP amendment failed.