US donors gave €17,600 to Sinn Féin’s 2017 NI campaign

Friends of Sinn Féin raised €345,000 in a six-month period from US supporters

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams speaks to supporters at a Friends of Sinn Féin  breakfast in Washington on St Patrick’s Day 2005 - a year when he  was not invited to the White House St Patrick’s Day ceremony. File photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams speaks to supporters at a Friends of Sinn Féin breakfast in Washington on St Patrick’s Day 2005 - a year when he was not invited to the White House St Patrick’s Day ceremony. File photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

 

Sinn Féin’s US-based fundraising arm donated $19,887 (€17,600) to the party’s Northern Ireland Assembly election campaign this year.

The funds, raised from donors in the United States, were used to pay for printing and advertising during the March Northern Irish election.

The figures, revealed in financial returns filed to the US Department of Justice, show the group Friends of Sinn Féin raised $389,900 (€345,600) in political donations between November 1st, 2016 and April 30th, 2017.

Friends of Sinn Féin outlined that “all monies received were for the purpose of supporting the activities and purposes of Sinn Féin as a democratic political party engaged in Ireland, and many countries throughout the world, in promoting the Irish peace process by social welfare, political and educational activities”.

Irish-owned firms

The largest donations came from Irish-owned construction firms in the New York area, including United Structural Works, a steel manufacturing company in Congers, New York, which donated $20,000.

Eurotech Construction, whose chief executive Fay Devlin is originally from Co Tyrone, donated $15,000.

US trade unions were also among large donors recorded in the six-month period. Great Lakes Region Organizing, a union based in Chicago, gave $10,000. WithumSmith + Brown, an accounting firm based in Princeton, New Jersey, donated $10,500.

The majority of donations were received in November, when the Friends of Sinn Féin group held their annual fundraising dinner in New York. The flagship fundraising event was held on November 10th at the Sheraton Hotel, Times Square, New York.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams delivered the keynote address at the $500-a-plate dinner. Mr Adams also attended a smaller VIP event in the presidential suite of the hotel, according to the Sinn Féin president’s travel itinerary from the foreign trip, seen by The Irish Times.

First time Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh, from Mayo, introduced Mr Adams at the dinner. Rita O’Hare, the party’s general secretary and representative in the US, also travelled from Dublin for the event.

While on the US visit, Ms O’Hare attended a meeting of the Friends of Sinn Féin board on November 9th in the offices of Eurotech Construction.

Mr Adams also attended a meeting with the board at the Times Square hotel.

Friends of Sinn Féin has five bank accounts, all based in New York. The group recorded an expenditure of $294,203 over the November-April period. It spent $142,758 on fundraising event expenses, $48,252 on travel expenses and $33,405 on office administration.

Just under $20,000 was filed as election expenses donated to Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland for the March 2017 election.

No restrictions

Unlike in the Republic of Ireland, there are no restrictions on political parties in Northern Ireland receiving election donations from foreign countries.

Friends of Sinn Féin has raised more than $12 million in the US since the group was set up in 1995.

Deputy party leader in the Republic Mary Lou McDonald travelled to the US in March for St Patrick’s Day and attended a Congressional Friends of Ireland group meeting during her trip.

Mr Adams travelled to Washington on the same week to attend US president Donald Trump’s White House St Patrick’s Day reception.