Sinn Féin minister investor in group that bought Irish Central

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir among shareholders in business that purchased New York-based website

Northern Ireland's Minister of Finance Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has emerged as an investor in the group that has bought Irish Central, the New York-based news and entertainment website.

A long-time publisher, Mr Ó Muilleoir, a Sinn Féin minister, is among the new shareholders in the business led by Liam Lynch, a New York venture capitalist and investor in digital companies who purchased the website in May for $3 million (€2.7 million).

Mr Lynch, the new principal owner in the Irish-American website, along with his fellow investors bought out several Wall Street investors and long-time supporters of publisher Niall O’Dowd, who founded the website in 2009, in the deal.

Mr O’Dowd held a small minority shareholding prior to the sale and will continue retain an interest in Irish Central following the deal that was triggered by the decision of Irish-American businessman Tom McInerney to divest of his investment in Irish Central.

Mr McInerney, along with Wall Street investors Dennis Fitzgerald and Dennis Kelleher, were the primary shareholders in the business prior to the sale of Irish Central.

Mr Lynch, who helped build Broadway. com, the theatre information and ticket website, is a long-time associate of Mr Ó Muilleoir. He described the Belfast politician as "one of our passive minority investors".

Mr Lynch’s father Edmund, a New Jersey lawyer, worked for the Lawyers Alliance for Justice in Ireland, a group involved in the Northern Ireland Peace Process.

The Irish Voice, the New York newspaper run by Mr O'Dowd, was not part of the deal.

Mr Ó Muilleoir owns The Irish Echo, the rival Irish-American newspaper in the city through his company, Belfast Media Group.

Another executive in his group, Connla McCann, took over as publisher of The Irish Echo in May after Mr Ó Muilleoir became a minister in the Northern Ireland Executive.

The Sinn Féin politician, a former lord mayor of Belfast, recently updated the Northern Assembly’s members’ register of interests to include his purchase of Irish Central.

In the list up to July 4th his shareholdings include the "Irish Studio LLC (Publishing Company)". This, according to Sinn Fein, relates to Irish Central. In previous registers up to March 2016 there was no reference to Irish Studio LLC.

His other shareholding on the list is for the Nuacht (Holding Company), a 100 percent shareholder of the Belfast Media Group Ltd.

Under employment and earnings on the list, Mr Ó Muilleoir is described as a director of the Belfast Media Group and that he resigned his directorship on May 31st, 2016.

Remuneration including expenses and other benefits is “up to £500 per week”, with two hours worked per week.

He estimated benefits from the Belfast Media Group, including pension, at £10,000 for year, April 2016-March 2017.

The register also includes follow-up information relating to previous registers stating that as a director of the Belfast Media Group from February 3rd 2015 to the end of April 2016 his remuneration including pension was £16,000.

Mr Ó Muilleoir in the register also said he has commercial premises in Belfast for which he receives rental income.

Under unremunerated interests he is described as a director of An Nasc Ltd. (Irish Language Social Enterprise Fiontar Gaeilge) and a trustee of Coláiste Feirste.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent