US business figures’ concern at Sinn Féin economic policies

Leading Irish-Americans express unease at meeting with Adams, McDonald and others

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking to supporters  on March 17th 2005 in Washington, DC, US. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking to supporters on March 17th 2005 in Washington, DC, US. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

 

Leading Irish-American business figures, including donors to Sinn Féin, raised concerns about what they see as anti-business policies with senior party members at a recent private meeting in Dublin.

The economic policy meeting came at the suggestion of a major supporter of Friends of Sinn Féin, its US fundraising arm, whose Irish-American friends were concerned about the party’s economic policies given the prospect it could form part of a future government.

The two-hour meeting at Leinster House in January was hosted by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and attended by deputy leader and public expenditure spokeswoman Mary Lou McDonald, finance spokesman Pearse Doherty and jobs spokesman Peadar Tóibín.

Public spending

“One of the things that we spoke about is this perception that exists in Ireland certainly and I guess to some degree here [in the US] among the uninformed that Sinn Féin is somehow hostile to business,” said Friends of Sinn Féin president Jim Cullen, who also attended.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said the party “keeps in regular communication with our supporters abroad” and that over the past 18 months had engaged in meetings with supporters from North America.

“The focus of the meeting was investment, job creation and economic issues,” the spokesman said.

A number of businessman had “a classic American approach to economics in that they would prefer lower taxes and lower spending on public services,” said a source with knowledge of what was discussed.

“We explained we had a more European approach and believed in funding public services,” added the source, who is close to the party.

The US is a major source of support for Sinn Féin. The Irish Times revealed yesterday that the party had raised $12 million (€10.7 million) over 20 years through Friends of Sinn Féin, a large part of which comes from some of New York’s biggest construction businesses.

Trade union movement

“I would have no truck with their economic policies,” said one Irish-American who attended. Despite his opposition, the businessman has been a substantial and long-term donor to the party. He urged the party to be more business-friendly to appeal to more voters.

Mr Cullen said that the policy concerns raised by the businessmen were “very well received” by the party.

“The consensus was, look, these guys made a good point – we need to listen, we certainly need to address any perception that Sinn Féin would be hostile in any way with business,” he said.

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