A grant of $80,000 from a California-based Irish-American organisation helped a Sinn Féin group fund the purchase of adverts in US newspapers in March promoting Irish unification.
Friends of Sinn Féin, the party’s US-based organisation, disclosed details of the €66,000 grant from the non-profit Knights of the Red Branch Inc (KRB) in its latest return filed with the US department of justice. Returns must be filed twice a year by the organisation as the agent of a foreign political party.
Sinn Féin’s New York-based group took out half-page ads in the New York Times and Washington Post as well as in Irish-American publications such as the Irish Echo in the run-up to St Patrick’s Day calling for a referendum on Irish unity to be held.
The ads, aimed at rallying Irish-American support for the poll, appeared under the title "A United Ireland – Let the people have their say".
The pandemic curtailed fundraising efforts by Friends of Sinn Féin during the most recent six-month reporting period as it could not hold its annual fundraising dinner in New York. The event, held in a Manhattan hotel, is typically the group's biggest annual money-spinner but was cancelled last winter.
Including the grant, Friends of Sinn Féin brought in $120,296 during the half-year, down significantly on the $294,790 raised in the corresponding period a year earlier.
Friends of Sinn Féin president Mark Guilfoyle said the past six-month reporting period was "challenging but positive" for the group, which saw "a significant and welcome increase in online donations". The return shows that it raised $10,000 in online donations, ranging from $5 to $500.
Mr Guilfoyle said the non-redeemable grant from KRB, whose purpose in part was “to lawfully advance the unification of Ireland”, helped his organisation to “promote Irish unity, including contributing to the cost of the unity ads”.
He added that the past six months had “seen a renewed focus and energy across America” on protecting Irish peace agreements and promoting Irish unity.
The president of KRB is Ciaran Scally, a businessman who emigrated in the mid-1980s from Co Antrim to Oakland, where he runs an electrical and property business. Mr Scally is a long-time supporter of Sinn Féin and pushed for a stretch of roadway in Oakland to be named Gerry Adams Way in 1999.
In 2018, KRB commissioned an economic study by Canadian consultants about the cost of a hard Brexit on Ireland and the benefits of reunification. It funded a similar study on the economic benefits of unification in 2015.
Responding to queries from The Irish Times, Mr Scally said KRB makes grants to different organisations, including to those that advance the cause of the unification of Ireland. “We do not comment on specific grants or grantees,” he said, adding that KRB hoped “to help resolve conflict through education”.
A 2018 financial return to the US’s internal revenue service shows that Knights of the Red Branch had revenues of $125,000 that year.