A company owned by a prominent Brexiteer has donated £30,000 to the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) political party, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
he money given by Legatum Ltd — whose sole director is former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib — is believed to be one of the largest donations ever received by the party.
Mr Habib has built up close links with TUV leader Jim Allister in recent years through their mutual opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol and both men are involved in an ongoing legal case which aims to have the protocol scrapped.
The protocol, which involves checks on goods travelling into Northern Ireland from Great Britain, was agreed between the British Government and European Union as part of the Brexit agreement to prevent a hard border in Ireland. Unionists claim the protocol has instead created a border down the Irish Sea.
Mr Habib has spoken at a series of anti-protocol rallies in Northern Ireland in recent months. Other speakers included Mr Allister and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Jeffrey Donaldson.
For many years there was secrecy around donations made to political parties in Northern Ireland. However, in March 2018, legislation was passed at Westminster which means the details of donations to parties must now be made public but the law only covers donations received since 2017.
Political parties in the North are now required to lodge donation details every three months with the Electoral Commission which publishes the information on its website.
The money received by parties is made up of “public funds” from organisations such as the Northern Ireland Assembly and the House of Commons, along with donations from individuals or companies.
Mr Habib told the Sunday Independent his company’s £30,000 donation to the TUV had been to help with the party’s costs during the Northern Ireland Assembly election in May. According to the Electoral Commission website, the party received the funds on March 23 this year.
He said his company had made a similar donation to the DUP to help with their election costs, but there is no mention of the donation on the Electoral Commission website in relation to money received by the DUP up to March 31 this year.
When asked for a comment about Mr Habib’s donation, the DUP did not respond.
Apart from the £30,000 from Legatum Ltd, which was set up in 2019 and lists the nature of its business on the Companies House website as “financial intermediation”, all the other money received by TUV was from public funds.
Of all the parties in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin has declared the most donations, a total of £4,851,756.21, since 2017.
In what was believed to be the largest ever donation made to a political party in the North, it received £2.9m from the will of Englishman William Hampton, who died in 2018 at the age of 82.
The first tranche of £500,000 was paid in April 2019, followed by a further £1m in May 2019. There were more payments from Mr Hampton’s bequest of £100,000 in July 2019, £400,000 in September 2019 and £100,000 in March 2020 and £800,000 was received from the will in February 2021.
There were no known links between Sinn Féin and Mr Hampton, a London-born former market trader who inherited the fortune from his father. However, friends suggested he left the money to Sinn Féin “to get the last laugh at the establishment”.
Including Mr Hampton’s legacy, the party has received £3,551,808.15 in individual donations since 2017. Apart from Mr Hampton, all the other money received from individuals was donated by political representatives of Sinn Féin.
In 2017 and 2018, former MEP Martina Anderson donated a total of £62,255 to the party, including one of £24,755 in September 2017.
All the other money from individuals was donated by the party’s MLAs.
Since 2017, Sinn Féin has also received £1,299,948.06m from public funds.
According to the Electoral Commission, the DUP has received £2,429,873.20 in the five years until March 31. Of this, £2,409,833.24 was from public funds.
It also received £9,040.96 from North Antrim MP Ian Paisley in June 2021. The DUP was given £4,999.00 by Gross Hill Properties Ltd in July 2017 and £4,000 came from Belfast International Airport in January 2018. The DUP also received an individual donation of £2,000 from John Maurice Bradley in October 2021.
In the same period, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) has declared £803,564.84 in donations with £791,564.84 from public funds.
However, the SDLP also received donations from companies and individuals: James Watson (£4,000); Mulrines Beverages Ltd (£4,000); Creagh Concrete (£2,000); and Brian Duffin (£2,000).
The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) has received £453,560.41. The majority, £445,560.41, came from public funds but the UUP also received four individual donations of £2,000 each, three of which were made by the same person, James Kingan.
The Green Party in Northern Ireland has received £208,496.64 since 2017. People Before Profit Alliance has declared £143,468.48.