Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Thursday, 4 February 2010

Electoral body finishes DUP probe

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson said he gave his MLA salary to the DUP

The Electoral Commission has completed its review of donations made to the DUP by its leader Peter Robinson.

In a interview with the News Letter last June, he said that he gave his assembly salary to the party.

The commission opened the review because donations over £5,000 to a political party have to be declared.

As an MP, Mr Robinson's MLA salary is reduced to £15,000 but it is understood the commission has no record of any donation over the £5,000 limit.

Last June, following the European elections and the media focus on salaries and expenses, Mr Robinson gave a wide-ranging interview to the News Letter.

He was quoted as saying that he gives up his entire MLA salary, which is around £15,000.

At the time of the interview, parties were required under law to declare donations exceeding £5,000 to the commission.

It is understood the commission found no donation exceeding that limit and therefore will not be investigating any breach.

The law has now changed and parties have to declare any donation over £7,500.

In the News Letter interview Mr Robinson was quoted by the paper's political correspondent as saying: "Every one of our councillors, every one of our Assembly members, every one of our post holders, every one of our ministers, pays into the party in accordance with what they receive for those positions.

"That means that the first minister gives up completely his Assembly salary. As MPs, we only get a third from our second salary, but that goes over to the party."

BBC NI political correspondent Martina Purdy said news of the review into donations to the DUP came to light in the wake of the BBC Spotlight documentary on the financial affairs of Iris Robinson

"The question remains - how much of his assembly salary did Mr Robinson donate to the party?"

In a statement on Thursday the DUP said:

"The DUP received substantial donations from the party leader who did not take up his post as First Minister until June rather than the start of the financial year.

"The Electoral Commission is content that none of the donations to the accountant units or the party centrally exceeded the limits.

"When the party officers set the figure, it was based on the net salary of an assembly member."

The interview with the News Letter was not the first time Mr Robinson had spoken of donating a large part of his salary to the DUP.

In February 2002 he told the Assembly: "It is well known publicly - at least to those who want to listen - that my ministerial salary goes to my party.

"Those who are aware of my position in East Belfast know that the one third of my Assembly salary to which I am entitled is used to provide a first-class service in my constituency."

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