After much speculation, the controversy embroiled Democrat Unionist Party (DUP) has finally come clean and named the British lobby group it spent money on behalf of during the United Kingdom’s anti-EU referendum campaign in the first half of 2016. The largely unknown Constitutional Research Council, a right-wing think tank, “donated” £425,622 (€504,098) to the DUP, which used the cash to fund a series of pro-Leave adverts in Britain, including a single high-profile advertisement in the London Metro newspaper which cost the party a staggering £282,000 (€333,639). The DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson claimed in an article for the pro-union Belfast Telegraph that the Democratic Unionists were not:
“…a wealthy party, and therefore to finance our national campaign the DUP raised funds.
The DUP was for Leave. We raised money; we spent it on our position, which we’ve held since the party was founded. Who donated to us?
They’re the CRC – the Constitutional Research Council – a group which supports constitutional pro-Union causes. They believed, as did we, that Brexit would be good for the Union and bad for those who oppose it.
I thank the CRC for choosing to donate to us, and, modesty to one side, I hope for our part we ran a campaign worthy of the cause.”
So what is the mysterious Constitutional Research Council (CRC)? It is understood to be a lobbying organisation of well-connected British nationalists, mainly politicians and businessmen, led by Richard Cook, a former vice-chairman of the Conservative Party in Scotland and an unsuccessful candidate in several UK general elections. Its last public appearance occurred during the bitter fight over the leadership of the Tories following prime minster David Cameron’s shock resignation. The group produced a number of polls favouring the present premier, Theresa May, and is thought by some to be close to her faction of the Conservative Party.
Whatever its exact makeup and role, and relationship to the hard-right Tory government in Britain, there is no doubting why the CRC chose the xenophobic DUP to covertly channel its anti-European donations through. Nor do we need to ask why Arlene Foster’s party grabbed the secret cash when offered, as it plays its own long-term, separatist game of undermining friendly relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom. A nihilistic ambition which will come to fruition in the coming year with the probable imposition of a Brexit border around the UK-administered Six Counties and the rolling back of two decades of soft reunification on this island nation.
Some politicians find it easier – and more beneficial – to deal with the politics of violence than the politics of peace.
UPDATE: The British website, Open Democracy, is reporting that the Constitutional Research Council has links to the former head of the Saudi intelligence service, Prince Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz, who was also the father of the current Saudi Ambassador to the UK.