The fund raising power of the Conservative party and the American Republican party in past decades is stuff of legend…. and yet infamous. The accessibility of massive financial reserves allowed both parties to develop what at one stage were un-paralleled P.R. machines, whilst simultaneously creating and reinforcing un-paralleled levels of corruption and influence peddling.
The recent release of N.I. party incomes by the Electoral Commission slipped almost totally under the media radar, however they make for very interesting reading. The 2010 accounts saw the DUP the lowest earners at £268,456, the SDLP at £346,946 and the UUP at £440,949. Sinn Fein however trounced the lot, with a declared income of £1,289,335! In the spending stakes the difference is as equally disproportionate, with Sinn Fein spending over three times their nearest rivals at a whopping £1,212,375!
There is no-one who would suggest for one minute that Sinn Fein have committed any crime in either real terms, or by way of ‘natural’ justice, by raising massive amounts of funding, indeed it’s common knowledge that elected representatives draw a set salary with the rest going to the party (one of the few aspects of Sinn Fein that gains a kind of universal kudos- albeit the figure of this ‘average’ wage does not appear to be in the public domain). Note: It’s not apparent if these salary donations are included in these figures.
Given the astounding figures involved however, should Northern Ireland – Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter alike- be concerned? There is one almost universal constant in human history… when one grouping or body has access to finance vastly exceeding their rivals and enemies, it rarely breeds integrity, sincerity or bodes well for their enemies. Or come to that, even their friends in the long run…