Adams hits back at critics for travelling to NY fundraiser

Sinn Féin leader tells US donors ‘disastrous’ policies scattered Irish around the world

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams shot back at criticism over him missing Dáil debates to attend the party's $500-a-plate (€460) fundraising dinner in New York.

He told donors that the Government’s “disastrous economic policies” had scattered half a million Irish people throughout the world.

Mr Adams and the party's vice president Mary Lou McDonald drew fire from the Government parties for travelling to the Friends of Sinn Féin dinner at the four-star Sheraton Times Square Hotel in Manhattan and missing debates about the Social Welfare and Finance bills at home.

“I just want, if I may, to send a word to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste,” he told several hundred guests at the start of a 28-minute speech.

“Mary Lou and I are coming back. We will see you in the Dáil and we will hold you to account for all of the things that you haven’t done, despite all of your promises in the last election to do,” he said, to loud applause.

The party will reap greater spoils from this year’s dinner, the biggest fundraising event in the party’s calendar, than in previous years.

Introducing Mr Adams, New York-based businessman Fay Devlin of Manhattan building company Eurotech Construction said that the party's US arm had enjoyed "one of the most successful nights we have had."

Friends of Sinn Féin president Jim Cullen told The Irish Times afterwards that although there were 680 paying guests booked to attend the event, a little over 800 people had made donations. This puts the party's receipts from the evening at more than $400,000 (€367,000).

Guests enjoyed fillet mignon washed down with Californian cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay while a band serenaded them with Irish standards such as The Town I Loved So Well and Whiskey in the Jar.

The evening was a night of celebration for the party's biggest US fundraisers as they marked the 20th anniversary of the annual dinner. Mr Adams sat next to Pat Donaghy, the Tyrone-born co-founder of US building company Structure Tone and one of the party's biggest donors.

In his introduction, Mr Devlin, also from Tyrone, said attempts to denigrate Mr Adams and his party by his opponents arose because "the old order in Ireland have become too comfortable with the status quo."

Mr Adams, in his speech, addressed the murders of two former IRA men this year, which led to a British government panel controversially concluding that IRA army council influenced Sinn Fein strategy.

The party leader said the latest political crisis in Northern Ireland was "contrived. "Talks around the negotiation of a budget collapsed because of rivalry between the two main Unionist parties," he said.

“It’s the same story, about resistance to change, which is particularly strong in all elements of unreconstructed unionism and especially within the British security services,” he said.

“These folks do their best to frustrate the necessary process of change.”

He told the party’s donors that he expects the restored talks between the Northern Irish parties, which includes discussion on the question of paramilitarism and criminality, to “come to a conclusion fairly soon”.

“Paramilitarism and criminality are in some cases inextricably linked,” he said, adding that Sinn Féin was “in the vanguard of the battle against violent unionism and those gangs who masquerade today as the IRA”.

Mr Adams said there was “no rationale or reason for armed groups, except self-gain for those involved”. His party wanted measures to support those who want to end paramilitarism or their involvement in it.

Mr Cullen described the British government panel’s findings about the IRA leadership’s oversight role in Sinn Féin as “a lot of baloney”.

“That was just a distraction to take away from the issues that have to be addressed and which people are seeking to avoid,” he said.

Friends of Sinn Féin has raised more than $12 million for the party since it was established in 1995 to put a formal structure on the Republican movement’s US fundraising efforts during the Peace Process.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

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