US donors gave Fianna Fáil nearly $1.3 million

Donors to party between 1984 and 2000 included businessmen, clergy and unions

Businessman Galen Weston donated to the party. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Businessman Galen Weston donated to the party. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

Donors to Fianna Fáil’s US fundraising arm over almost two decades included well-known businessmen, monsignors, unions and companies including the US Tobacco Company, Tara Mines and Waterford Crystal.

The Irish Times has digitised US department of justice filings made by Friends of Fianna Fáil which show the party raised almost $1.3 million between 1984 and 2000 ranging in donations of between $5 and $27,000.

The highest cumulative donations were made by Irish-American businessman John Sharkey who donated a total of $37,000 to the organisation in two separate donations in 1996 and 1999. Businessman Declan Ganley donated $25,000 to the organisation in 1996.

Billionaire businessman

Lesser amounts are listed for individuals including billionaire businessman Galen Weston, the late founder of the Central Remedial Clinic Lady Valerie Goulding and deceased New York pub and restaurant owner Eamonn Doran.

A $5,000 donation in the name of Dermot Desmond is recorded in December 1990, while two further donations totalling $6,000 and made in 1988 are listed under the name “D Desmond”.

Attempts to contact the financier to confirm whether these donations were made by him or on his behalf were unsuccessful.

US-based Irish publisher Niall O’Dowd made two separate donations totalling $500 in the late 1980s.

Two of the publications he founded, the Irish Voice newspaper and Irish America Magazine , are also listed as contributing $10,700 in total.

When contacted Mr O’Dowd said the latter donations were for tables at dinners hosted to mark Albert Reynolds’s role in the peace process. He said contributions in his name were for attendance at private Friends of Fianna Fáil events at which no press facilities were offered.

A $2,000 donation in 1997 is listed in the name of Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív.

When contacted Mr Ó Cuív said the donation was not made by him but by an individual based in Canada which he forwarded to the party.

Individual donors also include members of the clergy including the late Monsignor James Murray who donated $1,500 in two donations and the late Monsignor Daniel J Bourke who donated more than $1,300.

The United States Tobacco Company made a $3,750 donation in 1988, the same year in which Tara Mines made a donation of $3,703 and Waterford Crystal donated $1,500.

Unions including branches of the Bricklayers Local Union, a branch of the Excavators Union and the Transport Workers Union of America donated a total of $1,600 between them.

A total of $1.27 million was raised by Fianna Fáil in the years covered by the filings (this figure excludes revenue raised from bank interest and two loans totalling $60,000).

This compares with the $12 million raised by Friends of Sinn Féin between February 1995 and October 2014, the last period for which the latter organisation reported donations with the US department of justice.

In that time the parties shared some of the same donors: Structure Tone and its founder, Pat Donaghy, are listed as having donated $14,000 and $3,000 respectively to Friends of Fianna Fáil up to 1996.

Friends of Sinn Féin have received more than $200,000 in donations from Mr Donaghy and his associated businesses: more than $63,000 in personal donations, $87,000 from Structure Tone and $56,000 from Favour Royal.

Coca Cola Corporation

The late Irish-American businessman Donald Keough, a former Coca Cola Corporation president/chief operating officer, made a donation of $10,000 to Friends of Sinn Féin and an equivalent donation to Friends of Fianna Fáil split over two contributions in 1996 and 1999.

Friends of Fianna Fáil stopped filing returns with the US department of justice in 2003 having reported no donations from December 2000 onwards.

Since 2001 Irish political parties had been prohibited from accepting foreign donations under the Irish Electoral (Amendment) Act.

Other Irish political organisations have been far less successful in raising funds in the US than Friends of Fianna Fáil and Friends of Sinn Féin.

A group called Friends of Fine Gael raised $140,000 from a dinner in November 1995 while another group, Supporters of Fine Gael Inc, set up in 2007, raised $28,350.

It has not raised any money since then and has not lodged a filing to the Department of Justice since 2011.

Friends of the Irish Progressive Democrats LLC raised $45,771 at two fundraising dinners in the six months to the end of March 2001, the last filing made by the US wing of the now defunct party.

An entity linked to the Labour Party, Friends of Irish Labour in America, was established in 1996 but carried out no fundraising activity in the US.