Sinn Féin’s US organisation, Friends of Sinn Féin, paid almost $300,000 (€280,000) in expenses in the six months to April last, almost half of which was spent on advertising its campaign for Irish unity in newspapers.
The latest returns for the party’s New York-based advocacy and fundraising body also show Friends of Sinn Féin have stepped up lobbying activity, with several high-profile meetings and addresses around the St Patrick’s Day visit in March.
In total, the organisation spent $294,411 between November and April 2023, of which $118,126 (€110,000) was spent on advertising and promotions in newspapers.
In the run up to St Patrick’s Day, the US organisation ran advertisements in American newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post among others, calling for an Irish unity referendum in light of the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement.
“The British Government continues to break its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement must be honoured in full,” the advertisement said.
“We call on the US Government to hold the British Government fully accountable to its GFA commitments. We call on the Irish Government to establish a Citizens’ Assembly and to plan, prepare and advocate for Irish unity.”
It added: “The future is in the hands of the people. It is time to agree on a date for the unity referendums. Let the people have their say.”
Both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson criticised Sinn Féin for taking out the advertisements at the time, with Mr Varadkar describing them as “unhelpful”.
Other expenses paid by the organisation throughout the six month period include $62,225 on travel, which includes hotels, flights, Uber and trains, as well as $76,755 on non-payroll taxes.
The latest returns from Friend’s of Sinn Féin also detail a high level of lobbying activity around St Patrick’s Day, including a breakfast meeting with special envoy for Northern Ireland Joe Kennedy III.
Michelle O’Neill, vice-president of Sinn Féin, spoke at an event at Georgetown University to mark the contribution of women to peace building in Ireland, while members of the party also met US politicians such as Nancy Pelosi and Mike Kelly to “discuss political developments in Ireland”.
Other engagements detailed in the returns include meeting US president Joe Biden to attend the annual St Patrick’s Day White House reception, as well as former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in April making an address at the Martin McGuinness Peace Foundation dinner.
Mark Guilfoyle, the Kentucky-based president of Friends of Sinn Féin, said the level of engagement between senior Sinn Féin representatives and US officials during this reporting period was “unprecedented and off the charts”.
“Our messages of protecting the Good Friday Agreement, calling for the establishment of Citizens Assemblies and pressing the British government to set a date for a Unity Referendum are really resonating,” he said.
“The Irish unity advertisements really drove discussion in the US and in Ireland. It was money well spent.”
In addition to its expenditure, the returns also detail the group’s fundraising. In the six-month period, it raised $17,000 in fundraising, most of which was from small donations.
Some of the larger donations include $7,500 from Withumsmith+Brown PC, a tax advisory firm in New Jersey, a further $7,500 from Shoreline Builders in New York, and $2,000 from the Fitzpatrick Manhattan Hotel in New York.
The US group’s disclosures to the US department of justice are required for foreign political parties operating in the US under the American Foreign Agents Registration Act.