Scottish journalists lead questioning over mystery DUP Brexit donations
AN INVESTIGATION INTO MYSTERY CASH for the Brexit campaign has become a live issue in the Northern Irish assembly elections after revelations by two Scotland-based journalists.
Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay on OpenDemocracy raised serious questions for Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party, the DUP, over the source of large sums of money spent in the dying days of the Brexit campaign.
Large political campaign donors in Northern Ireland, unlike in the rest of the UK, are not made public – meaning that the DUP funded Brexit campaigning across the UK from a mystery source.
The funds involved, which included an expensive UK-wide four wrap-around Metro newspaper ad two days before the vote, were likely to be “the most expensive single piece of propaganda ever issued by an Irish political party”, according to Irish commentator Fintan O’Toole.
Estimations are that the single advert would have cost in the region of a quarter of a million pounds alone. The Metro isn’t published in Northern Ireland.
“They’re from an organisation in England that wants to see the union kept, and to make sure we can have a United Kingdom because it was a national issue.” DUP leader Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster was challenged twice on the story as the Norther Irish snap election campaign got into gear yesterday [Thursday 16 February].
When challenged by journalist Mark Carruthers on ‘The View’, Foster said she did not know how much the party had spent and refused to say how large the donation was.
“I don’t have the figure here, so I don’t know how much it was,” Foster said. “I have no idea how much we spent. This was last June,” she said.
The issue was raised again in the first live leader’s television debate on UTV, when Foster was challenged by Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill. Foster fell short of saying who the donation was from, but said: “They’re from an organisation in England that wants to see the union kept, and to make sure we can have a United Kingdom because it was a national issue.”
Geoghegan and Ramsay launched a petition calling on Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to publish the names of major political donors, which he has the power to do.
“Transparency is at the heart of democratic politics. Whatever the source of the mysterious DUP funds, voters have a right to know how one of the most significant political campaigns in recent British history was financed. Any dark money in a campaign pot poisons it all: a loophole like this allows a hiding place for any penny with an embarrassing provenance or private interest behind it,” the duo wrote.
The administration at Stormont broke down over allegations of fraudulent behaviour in connection to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.
Arron Banks, the Ukip funding multi-millionaire, claimed the DUP wanted payment of £120,000 to back his Leave operation – a claim the DUP deny.
Picture courtesy of NICVA
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