SINN FEIN coffers have taken a hit after it paid out over £160,000 last year in legal fees.
The details are revealed in figures published on Thursday by the Electoral Commission.
It follows the party’s loss of a libel action taken by former director of Northern Ireland Water Declan Gormley.
Mr Gormley was awarded damages of £80,000 against the party.
Overall, Sinn Féin lost just over £63,000 over the year – even though it had the largest income.
The other three largest parties, the DUP, SDLP and Ulster Unionists, all recorded a profit.
Mr Gormley sued Sinn Féin and its former DRD Minister Conor Murphy over the contents of two press releases that it issued in 2011.
The party denied the press releases were defamatory but lost, and was ordered to pay Mr Gormley damages of £80,000. It was also ordered to pay full costs.
These have never been disclosed, but the party’s annual accounts for last year show its legal costs were £161,680 – up £154,000 on the previous year.
Overall, Sinn Féin is the only one of the four largest parties to record a loss for 2012 – just over £63,000 – even though its income, at well over £1m, was more than double anyone else’s.
The DUP showed the biggest profit at £185,000.
Mike Nesbitt’s Ulster Unionist Party made over £15,000 and the SDLP recorded a profit of almost £13,500.