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Dickson calls for openness over political donations

March 4, 2013 4:54 PM

LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Stewart Dickson (Antrim East)Alliance Chief Whip Stewart Dickson MLA has said that information on large political donations should be made public. He was speaking as he proposed an amendment to a debate on the upcoming Northern Ireland Bill that will not make information on donations public. The amendment was rejected.

In Great Britain, donations from a single source to a political party over £7,500 are made public. However, in Northern Ireland this information is just given to the electoral Commission but not made public. Alliance voluntarily publishes this information on our website.

Stewart Dickson MLA said: "Currently, MLAs must report to the Electoral Commission details of any donations from permissible sources over £1,500 and political parties in Northern Ireland have to provide information to the Commission about donations over £7,500 from a single source, but the names of donors are not made public, as they are in the rest of the United Kingdom.

"Alliance made a voluntary commitment to publish information in line with the UK arrangements and has followed through on that commitment.

"In April of last year, my party colleague, Naomi Long MP, asked the Prime Minister to commit to changing the legislation to make local parties publish their list of significant donors.

"We believe that the public in Northern Ireland should have access to the same information as people in England, Scotland and Wales about how political parties are funded and who their major donors are.

"The public can then judge for themselves whether these donors have any undue influence on party policy.

"It is important that parties are open and transparent about how they are funded. Legislation designed for the worst of the Troubles needs to be amended to reflect the fact that Northern Ireland has moved on significantly.

"We cannot, on the one hand, talk about normalisation and tell people that Northern Ireland has transformed into a safe destination for inward investment and tourism (and require companies to publish their accounts) and on the other hand use security concerns as a reason to avoid being transparent about party political donations.

"It is worth noting that the vast majority of donors would not be affected by any change to bring us into line with the GB arrangements as only larger donations need to be declared.

"It is also important to recognise that similar information is already in the public domain as the names of those who sign nomination papers at election time are published.

"In the interim, I urge all parties to follow our example and publish this information voluntarily."

ENDS

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