SDLP and SF refuse to say when names of their donors will be published

The Metro advert paid for by the DUP during the Brexit campaign
The Metro advert paid for by the DUP during the Brexit campaign

Both the SDLP and Sinn Fein have failed to say when – if ever – they are planning to release the full list of their own party donors, after strongly criticising the DUP over the issue of donations.

At the weekend, both pro-united Ireland parties kept up pressure on the DUP, demanding more details be revealed about a massive donation which Arlene Foster’s party had received from a group of pro-Brexit business people.

However, neither of them routinely publish details of named donors themselves.

Last week it was reported that a little-known Great Britain-based group called Constitutional Research Council had given about £435,000 to the DUP, almost all of which was said to have then been spent on the Brexit ‘Leave’ campaign – mainly by taking out massive adverts in the London paper Metro.

On Sunday the SDLP said “fundamental questions” remain on the issue, such as “where this money originated” and “who exactly provided it”.

It said the DUP “must provide that transparency immediately”.

On Sunday, Sinn Fein issued a statement demanding to know “where the money came from and whether or not the DUP are still being bankrolled by this mystery organisation”, followed by another on Monday calling on the DUP to “come clean” on its donors.

All political donations in Northern Ireland are hidden by law – a situation that is unique in the UK.

The only one of the big five parties in the Province which regularly voluntarily publishes details of large-scale donors is Alliance.

Sinn Fein was asked by the News Letter when it will publish its own list of donors in full, but the party did not respond.

It has previously stated that it favours greater transparency, stating that it publishes its financial accounts in line with the law.

However, raising the issue of the annual financial accounts is essentially irrelevant to the question of donations.

The most recent set of Sinn Fein accounts the News Letter can readily find for the “six counties” wing of the party dates back to 2008, and shows donations of £530,246 – but offers zero details about who gave this money.

The SDLP, meanwhile, responded to the News Letter by stating: “SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has written to the secretary of state proposing that the circumstances which prevented the disclosure of political donations in the past now no longer apply and that he should set a date after which party donations should be published.

“The secretary of state should bring forward legislative changes to allow for transparency as soon as possible.”

The DUP and UUP have likewise indicated they want to see more transparency in donations, but neither have actually published names of their donors.