Donor data underlines DUP-Tory alliance

The Electoral Commission has today released its first ever figures for party donations in Northern Ireland. Thanks to the DUP-Conservative alliance in the Commons, the figures do not cover the Brexit referendum. Despite an extensive investigation by openDemocracy, we still do not know who made the mysterious $435,000 donation to which the DUP used to fund Brexit advertising in Britain. 

Almost all of the funding released comes from public sources or from donations by political representatives. The single exception is a 2017 donation of £4,999 to the DUP's North Antrim Westminster Association. This is the constituency of Ian Paisley Jr, where the DUP has been the subject of some publicity recently over its fundraising practices at constituency dinners that have been attended by senior Conservatives.

The North Antrim donation came from 'Gross Hill Properties Ltd', which seems to be identical with the 'Gross-Hill Properties Ltd' which in the same year made donations of £30,000 and £25,000 to the Central Conservative Party, and of £4,999 to Conservatives in Norfolk, North West, the constituency of Sir Henry Bellingham. 

According to Companies House, Gross Hill Properties is under the significant control of Michael Gross. The website of another of Gross's companies, Sydney and London Properties, describes Gross Hill as ''one of the largest owners and operators of residential ground rents in the United Kingdom.'

Sydney and London's own portfolio includes properties across Britain and Ireland. in Northern Ireland, the company owns the Castle Shepperd Centre in Antrim. In Britain, its most high-profile investment is One Euston Square near Euston Station.

In 2015, Gross was among landowners and developers who gave evidence to the Commons High Speed Rail Committee, where MPs in attendance included Sir Henry Bellingham.

Gross is listed as a resident of Gibraltar by Companies House, and also appears at a Gibraltar address in the ICIJ's Panama Papers Database. The database also shows that Gross is a beneficiary of the Danzig International Consultancy Group based in the British Virgin Islands.

The DUP will no doubt find Gross's Gibraltar link congenial, as they will his pro-Israel activism, which has seen him mount outspoken attacks on left-of-centre Israeli academics.

His support for the DUP provides evidence that they are fishing in the same pool of donors as their Conservative allies, at least on a modest scale. We can only speculate how much evidence from the Brexit referendum period would have reinforced that impression.







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