With eight Irish unionist MPs holding the government over a barrel, at least two top Tories have attended party fundraisers for the DUP – with the Electoral Commission investigating suggestions that public money may have been laundered into party coffers.
Michael Gove headlined a function branded as a “major business in the community event” at a top hotel last September, while ex-cabinet minister Priti Patel spoke at a similar hotel bash sponsored by Belfast International Airport. Both events charged £1,500 per table – and face claims that their role as DUP fundraisers was not made clear.
Reports of the event attended by Gove – who is currently environment secretary – state it was pitched to some potential attendees as a “chance to shape forthcoming agriculture policies”. One invitation stated:
“North Antrim annual business and community dinner hosted and facilitated by Ian Paisley MP, with special guest Rt Hon Michael Gove, MP, Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs”
What’s more, unionist-dominated Mid East and Antrim Council paid £1,500 to sponsor a table. While the cheque was apparently made out to the hotel, DUP MP Ian Paisley asked the council to send the taxpayer-funded payment to … errrr … his office. The DUP have refused to comment on the Electoral Commission investigation.
With Stormont departments already flush with cash thanks to the Tory-DUP deal, are the unionists now using their leverage over senior Tories to bolster their own funds?