American says donation to SF personal

 

IRISH American multi millionaire businessman, Mr Chuck Feeney, is the principal donor to Sinn Fein's US operation, but he has denied that the money comes from his General Atlantic Group.

The $240,000 donated over the past 12 months to pay rent and salaries for Sinn Fein's Washington office is a personal contribution, he said yesterday.

Reports in British newspapers said his company paid the money. The reports were based on the latest statement filed with the Justice department by the Friends of Sinn Fein (FOSF) as a foreign agent representing the Irish political party in the US.

The president of FOSF, Mr Larry Downes, who filed the return, told The Irish Times yesterday there had been a mistake in the documents setting out the detailed income and expenditure as required by US law.

In the document, Mr Downes says that "all money received, with the exception of two donations, were for the purpose of supporting the activities and purposes of Sinn Fein as a democratic political party engaged in Ireland and in many countries throughout the world in promoting the Irish peace process by social welfare, educational and lobbying activities".

The two exceptions, the document says, are "donations from the General Atlantic Group Ltd (Mr Chuck Feeney), whose contribution has been made exclusively into the New York Account No. 1 for the sole purpose of defraying expenses incurred by the Friends of Sinn Fein office in Washington DC."

Mr Downes said the mistake arose because the money from Mr Feeney was received by wire and not personal cheque. He had informed the Justice Department of the mistake and would be filing a correction. Although similar returns had been filed in the previous year, this was the first time it had been reported by the media that Mr Feeney's company was a donor, Mr Downes said.

The total amount raised by FOSF from April 1st to October 31st this year was $160,698, of which Mr Feeney contributed $120,000. The rest came from functions organised by Irish American groups such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) and small donations from individuals who are all listed in the returns.

The document says that no funds were transmitted to Sinn Fein in Ireland in this period. But it says that two laptop computers costing $3,301 were "provided to Sinn Fein in Ireland".

In the first year of operation by the FOSF during 1995, over $1 million was raised, but this was largely from fund raising functions during visits by Sinn Fein's Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness before the breaking of the IRA ceasefire.

Ms Mairead Keane, the head of the Washington office, which opened last June, said yesterday that FOSF "is no longer actively fund raising". It is "concentrating on political activities" such as lobbying politicians on nearby Capitol Hill and dealing with the media.

The document filed gives a detailed breakdown of all Ms Keane's meetings as part of her lobbying. This includes a visit to the White House to meet Mr Val Martinez of the National Security Council, former US consul in Belfast. Also listed are all her media interviews and trips around the US.