The Electoral Commission’s spotlight on money and politics has taken a swing to Belfast with the UUP caught in the beam.
The tale involves a £50,000 donation, a secret account, the little known Unionist Research Group and the 2005 election.
A businessman gave a donation to the UUP in the late 1990’s. This was placed in a secret account not included in the party’s accounts nor were the membership told. Following the establishment of the Electoral Commission the UUP did not disclose the money to them. In 2005, it needed the cash for its ill-fated £250,000 election campaign but it decided not to admit the account to the Electoral Commission. Instead, the Party gave the money to the Unionist Research Group run by David Campbell, its separate business fundraising group, who after removing some costs then paid some Party bills and donated the rest back to the party. This gave the impression it was a new donation.
This seems to have come to light following queries from party officer Basil McCrea and may offer further explanation why Lord Rogan stood down at the recent AGM as he was involved. The fact McCrea refers to hundreds of financial investigations does not inspire confidence nor does this quote from the Lord Maginness of Drumglass:
“If you wanted to give a donation to my party and you didn’t want to be seen to do it and then I channelled it in, would that be a difficulty? It might be in today’s terms but I am not sure it is”