I am disappointed that the DUP voted against my Council motion on improving openness and transparency on political donations. My motion was defeated after the DUP voted against it, with SDLP and most UUP Councillors abstaining.
Donations over £7,500 from a single source to a political party are made public in the rest of the UK; however in Northern Ireland this information is not currently published. Naomi Long secured an amendment at Westminster in 2013 that will mean that at some point in the future, any such donation made since January 2014 will be published, but the Secretary of State has not indicated when this will happen.
It is very disappointing that DUP Councillors on North Down and Ards Council again voted against increasing openness and transparency in politics. My passion to clean up politics remains strong despite the opposition from other parties.
Peter Robinson claimed in 2014 that the DUP would be prepared to publish details around donations over £7,500, so it appears that this was merely talk and his party will not support measures to release information on donations. The UUP and SDLP need to explain their position as their dithering and foot dragging is making them irrelevant on this issue.
With planning powers coming to Councils on 1st April and Councillors voting on planning applications, it is vital we retain public confidence but without transparency around donations, there is a strong risk this will be lost. The public have a right to know when Councillors will be making decisions on planning issues that involves individuals who have made large donations to their party.
Naomi Long secured a massive victory for openness and transparency when she changed the law in Westminster to ensure that all political donations over £7,500 made since January 2014 will be published when the Secretary of State deems that the security situation is acceptable. Alliance already voluntarily releases information on our donations, it is time to that donations to all parties was published to build public trust and end the whiff of corruption surrounding local politics.
We cannot say that Northern Ireland is a good place to invest but then claim that the security situation is not stable for the publication of donations.