South Belfast Ulster Unionist Councillor Jeff Dudgeon MBE has restated his Party’s position that it supports full transparency and disclosure of donations and loans to political parties.
Councillor Dudgeon said:
“The Ulster Unionist Party has consistently taken the view that we wish to see full transparency and disclosure in terms of donations and loans to Northern Ireland political parties, the only question being timing.
“In our response to the Secretary of State in January 2017 we said that we believed now was the time to introduce transparency and we proposed that the change should take effect from the start of the 2017/18 financial year.
“At Monday night’s meeting of Belfast City Council, a motion from the Alliance and Greens regarding political donations was debated. At that meeting my colleague Councillor Jim Rodgers proposed an amendment that the law in Great Britain forbidding foreign donations should be extended to Northern Ireland, but unfortunately this was defeated by Alliance, Sinn Fein, Green and SDLP councillors.
“There is no question that amongst the calls for ‘transparency’ in political donations, there is hypocrisy being displayed by certain parties. The Ulster Unionist Party supports the law in Northern Ireland operating in exactly the same way as it does in the rest of the United Kingdom. It is for others to explain why they do not.
“Given the millions of dollars which Sinn Fein have raised in the USA for decades, they are in a particularly weak position when it comes to criticising the actions of others.
“Furthermore, we must never forget that in times past there were very legitimate reasons for donors to political parties wishing to retain anonymity. Ulster Unionist MPs, Assembly members and councillors were actively targeted, and on occasion murdered by the IRA. We have not forgotten the terrible price paid by the likes of the Sir Norman and James Stronge, Robert Bradford, Edgar Graham or Charles Armstrong, murdered because they were elected as Ulster Unionists and dared to speak out. Many others also lived under threat. Our old Party Headquarters in Glengall Street in the centre of Belfast was regularly targeted by bombers.
“We were targeted by the IRA and other republican terrorists because we as a Party dared to speak up, condemn violence and stand up for the Union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. In targeting the Ulster Unionist Party, republicans were sending a warning to the wider unionist community as to what would happen to anyone who stood in the way of the IRA and their fellow travellers. Is it really any wonder that some party donors did not want their names made public given the very real danger of attack on individuals, homes and businesses?
“It is all too easy today for some to forget just how very real the risks and dangers were for anyone who was involved in politics back then. Ulster Unionists have never forgotten because we were on the receiving end.”