Political donation transparency needed

There must be transparency around political donations, writes Green Party leader and North Down candidate Steven Agnew.

In a democracy it is vitally important voters have full information to make a proper and informed choice.
The recent shocking revelations in the Panama papers demonstrate the lengths to which the rich and powerful will go to hide their activities from public view.

If we do not have full transparency on donations to political parties we will never know what influencing is happening behind closed doors, what hidden agendas are in play, and who is influencing whom.

Do political donations nudge parties towards certain decisions? Unless there is full transparency we will never know.
I am proud of the fact that the Green Party has led the way on transparency on political donations. We voluntarily set the bar and we set it high. We do not accept corporate donations ensuring we work for the common good, not for vested interests. We are also the only party to publish details of every donation over £500.

Now it is time for other parties to catch-up.

In the UK, the Electoral Commission Group publishes details of all donations over £7500 but in Northern Ireland they are barred from publishing this information. Some parties now say they are happy to comply with this figure– but is it good enough?

It was gratifying when Belfast City Council supported Green Party Councillor Ross Brown in his call for the Secretary of State to implement the 2014 legislation to reveal donations to political parties over £7500. Indeed, thanks to Councillor Brown, the council also called for political parties to go further and voluntarily publish donations over £500.

The parties that supported that call are yet to match their words with action.

I call on all parties to publish the details of their donors before the election so that voters can see how their campaigns were funded before they go into to the polling booth.

The person who pays the piper calls the tune. In the interests of democracy, we should all know in whose interests political parties are acting.

This blog was published in the Belfast Telegraph on Monday 11 April 2016

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