Support group paid for Adams's New York flights

Mon, Feb 18, 2013, 00:00

A Sinn Féin support group in the US paid for the flights of party leader Gerry Adams to New York last summer where he underwent a medical procedure paid for by a wealthy businessman.

However, the party insisted this weekend that Mr Adams did not need to declare the flights in the register of members’ interest that Deputies must make each year, as he was there on Sinn Féin business.

In a statement the party said Mr Adams had travelled to New York last July to meet the new board of Friends of Sinn Féin – the support group that raises funds for the party in the US – and that the medical operation was not the sole purpose of the trip. Mr Adams arrived in New York on July 30th and underwent the medical procedure for a prostate condition the following day.

The operation, estimated to cost €30,000, was paid for by Bill Flynn, former chief executive of insurance giant, Mutual of America. It involved an overnight stay in hospital and it is believed Mr Adams spent some days staying at the home of a friend as he recuperated from the procedure.

SF business

Friends of Sinn Féin filed the information on the costs of the flights as part of the annual disclosure of its accounts to the US justice department.

Sinn Féin has contended that the primary source of the visit was to do with Sinn Féin business and the operation was ancillary to that. On that basis, it has argued that Mr Adams did not need to declare the cost of the flight as it related to his role as party leader. Any costs incurred in fulfilling that role are excluded from declaration under the Electoral Acts.

However, a number of Deputies from other parties said privately this week the purpose of the trip was not quite as straightforward as was being argued by Sinn Féin.

But chairman of the Dáil Committee on Members’ Interests Thomas Pringle said he had received no complaints from TDs on the matter as yet.

Ethics legislation

The committee, chaired by the Independent TD for Donegal South West, has responsibility for ensuring that Deputies comply with their responsibilities under the standing orders of the Oireachtas, as well as electoral and ethics in public office legislation.

During another trip to the US last year, Mr Adams was the guest speaker at an event in Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. The university paid for Mr Adams to fly to its campus by helicopter and also paid him a speaker’s fee worth $23,000.

When asked was this declarable Sinn Féin responded that the support group rather than Mr Adams had received the fee.