Sinn Féin’s US arm raises €265,000 in six months

Filings show the bulk of the money came from annual dinner in New York

Sinn Féin's US fundraising arm raised a further $309,802 (€265,000) between November 2017 and April 2018 and spent another $15,931 on the party in Northern Ireland, new filings show.

The bulk of money raised by Friends of Sinn Féin came from the party's annual fundraising dinner held in New York last November attended by the party's then leader Gerry Adams, current leader Mary Lou McDonald, the party's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill, and about 750 guests.

The 54-page filing to the Department of Justice in Washington, a requirement of the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) for groups representing overseas political organisations active in the US, showed the New York-based group spent $365,514 in the six-month period.

The bulk of this spending went on fundraising event expenses totalling $143,903 primarily relating to the New York dinner. The next biggest sum spent was on travel-related expenses of $98,170 for Sinn Féin representatives and staff travelling to and from the US and for Friends of Sinn Féin staff.

The filing contains detail itineraries for the visits of Sinn Féin representatives around St Patrick’s Day including political meetings in Washington held by Ms McDonald and Ms O’Neill.

Friends of Sinn Féin president Mark Guilfoyle told The Irish Times that the $15,931 spent in Northern Ireland was on "election and event expenses" and that the group stayed within the £500 limit on foreign donations set by the UK Election Commission.

“We maintain a separate bank account into which we only deposit donations of stg£500 or less. Monies transferred to Northern Ireland come exclusively from that bank account,” he said.

Friendly Sons of St Patrick

Mr Guilfoyle, a Kentucky lawyer who once served as president of the Friendly Sons of St Patrick in Cincinnati, Ohio, said he has supported Friends of Sinn Féin for the past 20 years and was asked to take over as treasurer and then as president when the former incumbent Jim Cullen died last December.

The filing lists political donations made from the personal funds of Mr Guilfoyle and his wife to local politicians and judicial candidates and a local political group in his home area of Kentucky and Ohio.

Friends of Sinn Féin raised money in the latest six-month period from many of the same figures in the construction industry, the labour movement, and the restaurant and bar trade who have helped the group raise more than $13 million since it was set up in 1995 to modernise the party’s US fundraising efforts.

The largest single donation was made by Eurotech Construction, the New York building company controlled by Tyrone native Fay Devlin, a generous donor to the party over the years. His company donated $15,000 to the party's US operation in the most recent six-month period.

Other long-term donors to feature in the latest filing include New York building firms Henegan Construction ($5,000) and JT Magen & Company ($5,000), and Bronx-based Preferred Mechanical ($5,000) and its owner, Belfast-born Sean Mackin ($1,000), a former member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the political wing of the Irish National Liberation Army.

The second largest donor to Friends of Sinn Féin was Baldor Specialty Foods, also based in The Bronx, which donated $10,000 to the party. The company launched an Irish stout called Heavy Fennel with the Bronx Brewery for St Patrick's Day this year.

Trade unions, the Laborers' International Union of North America, whose general president Terry O'Sullivan is a long-time Sinn Féin supporter, and the Great Lakes Region Organising Committee in Chicago each donated $5,000.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

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