One of the world's most generous philanthropists, Chuck Feeney (83) made his multibillion dollar fortune from duty-free shopping selling goods to travellers around the world and gave most of it away to charitable and educational causes through his organisation, Atlantic Philanthropies. Famously shunning the trappings of any kind of billionaire status, Feeney owned no property or car, flew economy class, dressed plainly and wore a $15 (€13) plastic watch.
An Irish-American dual citizen, Feeney was instrumental in leading the republican movement down the peaceful political path and from 1995 provided Friends of Sinn Féin with $780,000 to fund the setting up of the party’s office in Washington.
The money came from Feeney directly and from two groups associated with him: General Atlantic Group Ltd ($385,000) and Americans for Peace in Ireland ($15,000).
“The goal was to establish a Washington office to put Sinn Féin on a respectable platform where they could say: ‘This is what Sinn Féin does, we’re not the IRA’,” said Feeney about the donation.
The money ran out 17 years ago but it remains the biggest single sum provided to Friends of Sinn Féin by an individual or company in its 20-year history.
Following his “giving while living” philosophy, Feeney’s intention from early in his successful career was to go broke in his lifetime by giving away his money.
“I had one idea that never changed in my mind – that you should use your wealth to help people,” he said in the 2007 biography, The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away A Fortune by former Irish Times journalist Conor O’Clery.
After years of donating billions in Ireland, Australia, Bermuda, South Africa, Vietnam and the US, Atlantic has said it plans to accelerate its giving so that by the time it aims to close in 2017, some 35 years after its first donation, it will have given away close to $8 billion.
One of Sinn Féin’s biggest supporters in North America, Pat Donaghy (74), a native of Carrickmore, Co Tyrone, emigrated to the US in 1959.
In 1971, with partner Lewis Marino, he founded Structure Tone, one of the top three construction companies in New York City. They grew the business into one of the largest privately owned construction companies in the US with revenues of $3 billion (€2.6 billion), staff of 1,650 and operations in Ireland, the UK and China.
Donaghy has since retired as chairman of the company and spends part of the year in Florida, but is said still to take an active interest in the company. Family members Ray, Brian and Jim, the company’s chairman, are all involved.
The company’s work has included the restoration of St Patrick’s Cathedral, the renovation of the the flagship Macy’s store at Herald Square in New York City and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Among the buildings the company has worked on in Ireland are Avoca Café’s flagship outlet, the Dublin Business School and the offices of pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme.
Donaghy features on the list of Friends of Sinn Féin donors in different guises. He has donated $63,570 personally while Structure Tone has given $87,000, according to filings with the US department of justice that provide a breakdown of individual donors.
Another Donaghy corporate entity, Favour Royal LLC, donated a total of $56,000.
This is the company behind the 85-acre manor estate between Augher and Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone that dates to the 17th century. Donaghy had plans for a time to develop a cross-Border golf estate to rival the K Club in Kildare.
Some in Irish-American circles joked that by purchasing Favour Royal, which straddles the Tyrone-Monaghan county lines, Donaghy, a fervent nationalist, intended to buy away the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Another of Donaghy’s business associates, John White, a senior vice-president at Structure Tone, has donated a total of $40,000 to Friends of Sinn Féin.
Structure Tone has fallen foul of the New York city authorities in the past. As far back as 1999 the company pleaded guilty and $10 million in fine to settle corruption charges linked to bid-rigging for a $500 million contract on the Sony building in midtown Manhattan.
Last year the company agreed to pay a settlement of $55 million after pleading guilty to defrauding clients by arranging for subcontractors to inflate their bills falsely between 2005 and 2009.
Low-key and softly spoken, Donaghy is close to Gerry Adams. The Sinn Féin president referred to Tyrone man in his speech at the annual Friends of Sinn Féin dinner in New York last November, saying he had spoken to Donaghy and members of his family for 40 minutes beforehand about "growing up in Tyrone".
Adams referred to Donaghy’s frustration with living like a second-class citizen in Northern Ireland and feeling “the sense of somebody thinking that they were superior to you”.
The Sinn Féin president also noted with some surprise in his speech that Donaghy’s wife, Mary, was related to Michael Collins.
One of Donaghy’s relatives, John Quinn, his sister’s son, was killed in a loyalist gun attack in Cappagh, Co Tyrone, in 1991, along with two other men and a bystander.
The IRA said the following year that Quinn and two of his companions had been members. The death of his nephew is said to have profoundly affected the New York-based businessman.
Donaghy’s niece, Pauline Quinn, was also an IRA volunteer and served time in Maghaberry prison in Northern Ireland.
Eurotech Construction/Fay Devlin
Thomas “Fay” Devlin, like Pat Donaghy, hails from Co Tyrone. The two men are said to be close. At the age of 24, Devlin founded Eurotech Construction, another of Manhattan’s big, Irish- controlled building companies, which has revenues of more than $80 million a year.
The company has given $120,000 to Friends of Sinn Féin over the years. Devlin (54), a native of Pomerory, Co Tyrone, and his wife Rosemary are big supporters of Irish groups in New York including the Irish Arts Centre.
Described by New York magazine as “an Irish immigrant with an adventurous streak”, Devlin branched out of construction into the film business after he met New York movie producer Marc Fiore at a New York Yankees baseball game.
The two became joint venture partners in Fiore Films in 2009 and were developing a film about the life of John Gotti jnr, son of the famous Gambino crime family boss. John Travolta was tipped to play a lead role for a reported fee of $10 million. The company also produced screenplay for another film project called Mob Street written by Chazz Palmintieri, writer of Robert de Niro-directed The Bronx Tale and star of Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway.
Devlin’s film investment ended badly. In a federal criminal complaint filed last November, prosecutors, following a FBI investigation, told a New York court that a victim, named by the New York Times as Devlin, was defrauded of more than $1.8 million (€1.6 million) that he wired into accounts controlled by a man named Salvatore Carpanzano.
“It wasn’t a good investment, obviously,” Gerard Keogh, Devlin’s lawyer, told the newspaper.
“We came from real estate and construction where it’s a little easier to project risk.”
Henegan Construction and Paul Bryce
Henegan Construction Company has given the fourth-largest amount of any individual or company to Friends of Sinn Féin. Founded by second World War navy veteran Paul Henegan in 1959, the New York-based family-controlled company has been led by his daughter Maureen (right), the chairman and chief executive, since the early 1990s. Paul Bryce, the president and chief operating officer, is a regular at Friends of Sinn Féin events.
The company has annual revenues of about $300 million a year and given Friends of Sinn Féin a total of almost $120,000 as well as personal donations from its president Paul Bryce totalling $7,100.
Labourers’ International Union of North America
A key figure connecting Sinn Féin with America’s trade unions is Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Labourers’ International Union of North America.
Unions across the country affiliated with O’Sullivan’s union feature prominently in the Friends of Sinn Féin filings.
Various branches of the Laborers International Union based in both Canada and the US have contributed more than $220,000 to Friends of Sinn Féin in the past two decades. He became the 10th general president of the union in 2000.
The union’s website describes O’Sullivan, who is president of New York Friends of Ireland and chairman of DC Friends of Ireland, as “a long-time, vocal supporter of Sinn Féin and its work to secure a peaceful, just and united Ireland”.
“What Terry has is what Sinn Féin loves: he fills tables and spends money – he would take five or six tables at functions,” said one prominent Irish- American businessman.
O’Sullivan, along with other US trade union leaders, hosted a lunch for Adams and Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald on their St Patrick’s Day visit to Washington DC last year.
O’Sullivan was unable to speak with The Irish Times about Friends of Sinn Féin for this article, a spokesman for his union said.
JT Magen & Co
JT Magen & Co, another New York building company and a competitor of Structure Tone and Eurotech, is controlled by businessman Maurice Regan, son of a Listowel, Co Kerry native of the same name. The controller of the $500 million- a-year turnover company recently emerged as the backer of a €15 million buyout of Capital Bars, the group behind pubs such as Cafe en Seine and the George, by the owners of the Setanta broadcasting group.
In 2012, Regan (49) spent €4 million on a house on Ailesbury Road. The Regan family also owns Newtown Anner stud in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, while Regan himself is a big financial supporter of Kerry GAA. JT Magen & Company Inc has given Friends of Sinn Féin a total of $95,600.
Preferred Mechanical and Preferred Sprinkler Corporation
Belfast-born Séan Mackin, who is in his mid-50s, is president and owner of Preferred Mechanical and Preferred Sprinkler Corporation, a plumbing company based in New York.
A republican and member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the political wing of the Irish National Liberation Army when he lived in Belfast, Mackin moved to New York in 1983. He was arrested by the FBI as an illegal immigrant in 1985, marking the start of a prolonged attempt to deport him from the United States.
After a five-year legal battle, Mackin was allowed to stay in the US in 1992 after his wife and daughter were granted political asylum.
He argued in court that his life was in danger after a file on him was leaked by members of the security forces to loyalists. He had been arrested multiple times while living in Belfast in the 1970s and claimed to have been tortured while in custody.
After winning his legal battle to remain in the US he obtained permanent residency and later became an American citizen. Two of this three children were born in the US.
While visiting family in Belfast in 2004, Mackin was arrested by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and questioned about the killing of a part-time RUC officer in 1983. He was released unconditionally.
Seán Downes, Mackin’s lawyer and an organiser with Friends of Sinn Féin, described his detention as “pure harassment”.
Mackin has been an active supporter of the Northern Irish peace process and a key organiser of Sinn Féin’s efforts in the US.
At last November's Friends of Sinn Féin fundraising dinner, Gerry Adams singled out Mackin, the Donaghy family, Paul Bryce, Fay Devlin, Seán Downes and Gerard Keogh for thanks.
Kevin P O’Sullivan
One of the biggest donors to Friends of Sinn Féin was American television executive Kevin P O’Sullivan, who gave the organisation $90,350.
A proud Irish-American, O’Sullivan, whose parents emigrated from Co Kerry, started in the television industry as a news commentator and later worked in it as as an actor and singer before moving into business.
As an executive he joined the American Broadcasting Company in 1967 before becoming president of two of its subsidiaries, ABC Films and ABC International television.
In 1973 he acquired the assets of ABC Films to set up Worldvision Enterprises, a worldwide television distributor that turned American soap operas such as Dallas,Dynasty and later programmes such as Beverly Hills 90210 and Seventh Heaven into international franchises. He died in 2006 at the age of 77.
Todd P Allen
A former Wall Street financial trader, Allen is close to Gerry Adams. The Sinn Féin president, who described Allen as “a good friend” in a 2011 blog posting, has stayed at his home in New Jersey while visiting the US. Allen is a close friend of author and film producer Don Mullan, whose eyewitness account of the Bloody Sunday army killings of 13 civilians in Derry in January 1972 inspired the 2002 film. Allen has contributed $116,825 to Friends of Sinn Féin since 1999.