Parties cashing in on peace dividend…

MICK flagged it up, but we forgot about the Electoral Commission’s report into the parties’ finances published on Wednesday. Davy Gordon noted that private donations to the local parties had more than doubled between 2006 and 2007, from £296,115 to £744,529 – so if no-one else is benefitting from a peace dividend, at least the parties are! Of course, the donors here, unlike elsewhere in the UK, will remain anonymous until at least 2010 (and any review is far from guaranteed to change this). Sinn Fein was the only party with an income over a million, about half of which comes from contributions from their elected representatives (and nearly £280,000 is Westminster and Assembly grants), while at the other end of the scale the UUP had a deficit of more than £400,000. It’s expenditure is almost double the party’s income, although a revaluation of party HQ Cunningham House to £800k helps matters. DUP donations have increased 15-fold between 2006/7, to £190,144, while SF’s almost tripled, to just under £300,000, thanks to US donors – another local luxury that doesn’t apply in the rest of the UK.

  • Dewi

    Always fascinating – One interesting aspect is the SF Debtor figure of about £150k. In the notes it’s split up between loans to accounting units (Constituency parties usually) of about £10k and sundry debtors of £140k. I’m trying to think of who would owe Sinn Féin £140k – seems strange.

    Worth looking at the SNP report for a model of how to write an annual report and to the TUV on how not.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Political Party Funds in Disarray Shocka!

    “while SF’s almost tripled, to just under £300,000, thanks to US donors – another local luxury that doesn’t apply in the rest of the UK.”

    Why is that? How did SF manipulate the Irish and British governments so that they can access American support while every other party on the island is banned from doing so?

    And why do all the other parties acquiesce in a law that permits this state of affairs? (These are not rhetorical questions, so answers welcome)

  • Dewi

    “Why is that? How did SF manipulate the Irish and British governments so that they can access American support while every other party on the island is banned from doing so? ”

    Only British based parties are banned – all NI parties can raise funds abroad.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Well, whatever one thinks of them, it’s hardly fair to criticise them for exploiting, legally, such a state of affairs then, I would have thought.

  • Does any of the PRM’s organised crime money find its way into the political domain, directly or indirectly?

  • dewi

    The figures imply not Nevin. Half a million quid from elected reps – some grants and the rest in donations – mostly from the USA.

  • Dewi, I wasn’t expecting any of this money to be, ahem, declared.

  • David Hamilton

    Surely this is considered a reserved matter? Due to conflict of interest in the need for reform I heartily believe the British government has a responsibility to reform party financing laws “here”. Maybe some day Northern Ireland will seem like a civilized country.

  • ulsterfan

    All financial support to political parties should be underwritten by the Government/tax payer.
    This will enable each party to have similar resources to fight elections and put forward their views/policies. A level playing field.
    If we leave it to a free for all only the richest and most powerful will prevail.
    a ceiling will be set to limit the amount used at elections and rigorously audited.

  • steve

    Sounds like some one is scared of good old fashioned politics.

  • Dewi

    Ulsterfan – trouble is how do you decide how much each. What criteria would you use?

  • Waffler

    Just try asking your local council for a breakdown of your rates bill.
    Now thers transparency and accountability.

  • Gonzo

    billie-Joe

    I don’t believe I did criticise SF for taking advantage of the NI-specific law, but you can bet yer sweet ass it was a sweetener from the peace negotiations with HMG.

    In summary: Fair play to the Shinners for sticking the jackboot in – the rest of the parties are just jealous. :op

  • Comrade Stalin

    Well, whatever one thinks of them, it’s hardly fair to criticise them for exploiting, legally, such a state of affairs then, I would have thought.

    Billie-Joe,

    This is not Sinn Fein taking advantage of existing legislation – well, not exactly. The legislation in question was originally intended to apply to the entire UK. Sinn Fein lobbied (very quietly) to have the British government drop this restriction, and they made it a major negotiating issue. I believe, however, that the restriction is due to expire soon and that the law is being brought back into line with the rest of the UK.

    This was one of a series of concessions granted to Sinn Fein at the time when the electoral reform legislation was being brought in, which was also coincidentally around the time of some of the initial decommissioning moves. Another concession was the granting of the offices at Westminster, which Sinn Fein also made a major issue.

    This is all entirely legal and above board, and it’s all clean politics, so they have done nothing wrong. However, I think it does need to be clear to everyone that Sinn Fein is a political party which is bought and largely paid for by American donors. Right now, it’s website is hosted in the USA, which I believe is a unique feat for any Irish or UK political party. Despite it’s attempt to condemn things like the Iraq war, it has always been very careful not to annoy powerful Republican Party friends and donors. I personally do not think it is right that foreign interests should be able to buy influence here.