As the SKWAWKBOX has reported, the DUP – the Northern Ireland party that Theresa May hopes can prop up a Tory minority government after her disastrous, hubristic General Election gamble – has troubling links to loyalist paramilitary organisations.
But that is not its only troubling connection, as an article by the Irish Times‘ Fintan O’Toole revealed last month:
Last June, just a couple of days before the EU referendum, the free Metro newspaper in London came with a full-colour, pro-Brexit ‘wraparound‘ ad that cost the advertiser £282,000 to place under the noses of the capital’s 1.5 million or so readers.
That bill was paid for by the DUP – even though the Metro is not circulated in Northern Ireland.
To put that into context, the DUP’s entire spending on its whole 2016 election campaign was £90,000, less than a third of what it spent on an ad to reach people in London.
Why a Northern Ireland political party would spend so much on an ad outside its territory is unknown – but it may well be connected to the fact that electoral rules in Northern Ireland allow the source of the money to remain publicly undeclared, whereas elsewhere in the UK the donor’s full details would be revealed.
So if someone based in mainland Britain wanted to make a large but obscure donation to fund a Brexit ad, routing it through a Northern Irish party would be a way to do it.
After several refusals to divulge the source, the DUP eventually disclosed that the ad was paid for out of a larger donation of £425,000 from an unincorporated Scottish organisation: The Constitutional Research Council (CRC).
The CRC has no standing as a legal entity but it is headed by a Scottish conservative who also formed a company with a now-deceased, senior member of the Saudi royal family – a company that never filed accounts and was eventually dissolved.
As O’Toole observes:
It may be entirely co-incidental that the man who channelled £425,622 to the DUP had such extremely high level Saudi connections. We simply don’t know. We also don’t know whether the current Saudi ambassador had any knowledge of his father’s connection to Richard Cook. But here’s the thing: the DUP claims not to know either. And that is at best reckless and at worst illegal.
Arlene Foster told the BBC in late February that she did not even know how much the mystery donor had given the party. Then the party, under pressure, revealed the amount, but insisted that ascribing the donation to Cook’s Constitutional Research Council was enough and people should stop asking questions. Then, in early March, Jeffrey Donaldson told openDemocracy that the DUP did not need to know the true source of the money.
But this is simply untrue. The UK electoral commission is clear: “a donation of more than £500 cannot be accepted… if the donation is from a source that cannot be identified”. The legal onus is on the DUP to establish that the real donor was entitled to put money into a UK political campaign. If it can’t do that, it has to repay the £425,622. Since it has not done so, we have to assume it knows the true source is not, for example, a foreign government – which would be illegal.
(Emphases added by the SKWAWKBOX)
As we saw before the election, the Tories suppressed the publication of a report that would have revealed that Saudi Arabia is a major source of funding for terrorist groups such as ISIS.
At the very least, the DUP is indirectly connected to senior members of the Saudi Royal Family via the head of the CRC, regardless of the ultimate source of the huge donation to its coffers from the CRC. If that money is eventually found to have come from the Saudis, that connection will become a lot more direct.
But then, Theresa May and Amber Rudd have close connections to the Saudis themselves, so perhaps they think that asking for support from a paramilitary-supported ‘hard-right’ political party with links to the Saudis is unproblematic.
It’s likely, however, that a lot of people in this country will disagree.
The SKWAWKBOX is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you found this information helpful and can afford to, please do click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your support so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.