DUP MLA vows to maintain support for Friends of Israel after donation fine

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A DUP MLA has vowed to remain active in his support for the Friends of Israel after he was fined after failing to declare a donation.

Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley and two other DUP MLAs were fined after failing to declare a donation with the set timeframe.

He and Michelle McIlveen and William Humphrey have each been fined £200 by the Electoral Commission.

They were found to have failed to report a donation within 30 days.

All three paid their fines in early July.

Mr Buckley said: “Since my election as an MLA I have been active in my support for the Friends of Israel.

Given that context I was invited to join a DUP delegation to visit Israel, a press release was released prior to the visit, and a report on it was provided on our return. I immediately notified the Assembly Standards and Privileges office, I was unaware that it was necessary to also inform the Electoral Commission but when I was informed immediately rectified it.

“I am proud of my association with the nation of Israel, it is a relationship I intend to maintain.”

A DUP spokesman said: “A declaration was made to the NI Assembly’s register of interests but the Electoral Commission was not notified. This was an oversight and has been corrected.”

In a statement, the Electoral Commission said it has also concluded three investigations into failures to comply with the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act (PPERA) by three regulated donees, relating to donations accepted prior to July 1 2017.

It has imposed penalties of £250, £300 and £600 on these three regulated donees. The deadline for payment or appeal is September 9 2019.

The commission is unable to disclose any information concerning donations to Northern Ireland recipients made prior to July 1 2017.

Louise Edwards, Director of Regulation, has urged the law to be changed to allow the disclosure of this information.

“We regret that we remain unable to disclose information about donations prior to July 2017,” she said.

“We continue to urge the UK Government to bring forward legislation that will enable us to publish information on donations from January 2014.

“This would give transparency and confidence to voters in Northern Ireland.”