PRESS FOCUS – Sinn Fein remain richest party in Northern Ireland- earning twice as much as DUP last year

Sinn Fein remains the richest party in Northern Ireland and earned twice as much last year as the DUP, according to figures released by the Electoral Commission, writes Suzanne Breen in The Belfast Telegraph

It boasted an income of £862,000 and was also the highest spending party locally on £940,000.

The DUP was well behind as the second highest earning party on £412,000. Arlene Foster’s party spent £404,000 in 2018.

The Ulster Unionists enjoyed an income of £339,000 but spent £371,000. The SDLP spent significantly more than it earned – £260,000 on an income of only £161,000.

The Alliance Party had a healthy financial year, securing an income of £246,000 and spending £218,000.

The SDLP, which relied heavily on Westminster funding, has suffered since the loss of its three MPs in the 2017 general election.

The party’s income is now half the £320,000 it enjoyed in 2016. It’s weakening financial position makes a full-blown merger with Fianna Fail even more likely.

The Electoral Commission published details of the parties 2018 accounts on Thursday.

Sinn Fein directly employed 14 full-time staff here last year and in addition its elected representatives employed 84 full-time staff on constituency work, according to its Northern Ireland accounts.

The party received £270,000 in donations, down from £437,000 in 2017. Head office in Dublin made £120,000 in contributions to the party locally.

Sinn Fein enjoyed a healthier year in fundraising up from £78,000 in 2017 to £91,000.

The party’s Assembly and Westminster allowances also rose to £342,000 from £289,000 in 2017.

The party’s travel expenses fell from £48,000 in 2017 to £22,000 last year. But it spent more on conferences and services – £17,000 compared to £5,000 in 2017.

It’s security expenditure rose least year to £12,500 from £7,600 the previous year. It’s spending on organisation development rose by a third on 2017 to reach £60,000 last year.

The party spent £8,400 on Brexit campaigning and just £7,800 on its Uniting Ireland Department.

The DUP’s income fell by a fifth last year – from £509,000 in 2017 to £412,000.

However, donations were slightly up from £153,000 to £161,000 over the 12 months. Membership subscriptions rose significantly from £13,000 to £22,000.

The Ulster Unionists’ income fell by 25% last year decreasing from £458,000 to £339,000.

Belfast Telegraph, August 8, 2018