SDLP drew down $400,000 from donation to establish New York office
Party has not engaged in fundraising since ban on large foreign donations in 2007
Denis O’Brien: put up $750,000 with Paddy McKillen to help the SDLP after New York dinner. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Paddy McKillen: Put up $750,000 with Denis O’Brien to help the SDLP. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA
The SDLP has a registered agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Thomas P O’Neill III, son of the former US Speaker, the late Tip O’Neill, is the registered agent for John Hume and the SDLP.
However, according to the SDLP, the party has not engaged in any fundraising since the ban on foreign donations over £500 was introduced in 2007. The last major funding the party received via the US was from two Irish benefactors, billionaire Denis O’Brien and Belfast-born developer, Paddy McKillen.
At a New York dinner in 2006, Mr O’Brien and Mr McKillen put up $750,000 to help the SDLP establish a presence in New York.
SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said the party drew down about $400,000 of the $750,000 to establish the New York office, which was run by businesswoman Sheila O’Malley.
“The Assembly wasn’t sitting at the time and we wanted the office to try to help bring in jobs investment into Northern Ireland and also to promote the interests of the party,” he said. “It was also very useful for networking.”
Dr McDonnell said the office was run under a company called SDLP US Incorporated. The donations from Mr O’Brien and Mr McKillen went directly through this company.
He said the office ran for about two years but when the ban on donations was introduced it was decided to close the operation. “We wound up the company and the office in 2009. We complied very tightly with all the US regulations,” he added.
Dr McDonnell said the SDLP did not seek to take the rest of the money that was on offer from Mr O’Brien and Mr McKillen due to the closure of the office and the limit placed on donations.
He added that about $125,000, or half of the pledged $250,000, was donated to the party, the remainder failing to materialise.
“That is not unusual after such events,” he said.