herald

Sunday 20 August 2017

Hollywood stars among Sinn Fein donors who pledged $12m to party

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen
Martin Sheen has been cast in a film about Howard Hughes

MOVIE stars, businessmen, construction firms and unions in the US have made donations to Sinn Fein to the tune of $12m (€10.8) in the last two decades.

Glitzy events for Gerry Adams' party in New York have contributed to its stateside fundraising arm, Friends of Sinn Fein (FOSF), generating about 15,000 donations since 1995.

Among the most high-profile figures to donate over the years were The Guard actor Fionnula Flanagan who gave $3,000, as well as West Wing star Martin Sheen and Viggo Mortensen from Lord of the Rings, who both donated $1,000.

The late actor Dennis Hopper gave $600 while Anjelica Huston donated $500.

The most generous donor over the years has been Chuck Feeney, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist who has given the party a combined $780,000.

That's made up of $380,000 donated personally, $385,000 from the General Atlantic Group Ltd and another $15,000 from Americans for Peace in Ireland - both organisations associated with Mr Feeney.

His contributions came in the 1990s and were spent on opening an office in Washington.

Another large business donor is Irish-American developer Pat Donaghy who founded one of New York's largest construction firms, Structure Tone.

His personal donations come to $63,570. Structure Tone has given $87,000 and another firm linked to the Co Tyrone-born businessman, Favour Royal LLC, gave $56,000.

Eurotech Construction - founded by another Tyrone man Thomas 'Fay' Devlin has donated $120,000 over the years.

CEASEFIRE

The Labourers' International Union of North America has donated $220,000 out of more than $1m given by unions over the years.

Third level institutions contributed a combined $70,000, including $28,000 given by Seton Hall University in New Jersey over four years.

Friends Of Sinn Fein was established following the IRA ceasefire of 1994 with the party raising £1.1m in 1995.

It made $832,000 in 1998, the year of the Good Friday Agreement and 2007 was the most lucrative year, with almost $1.2m donations raised, according to the figures compiled by the Irish Times.

More than half of the donations - $6.2m - have been made in New York state, followed by $1m raised in New Jersey. South Dakota had the lowest levels of donations at just $50.

Political parties in the Republic of Ireland can't accept foreign donations.

However, Sinn Fein says it uses the cash for its operations in Northern Ireland, paying for office costs like buying computers as well as purchasing cars for the use of party members.

FOSF chairman James Cullen - a former US army brigadier general - stressed that none of the cash is spent in the south.

The peace process led to greater fundraising opportunities for the party in the US.

"It could no longer be just some very well-meaning people passing the hat in a Bronx bar.

"What we recognised was that there has to be a new fundraising campaign, that would reach a much broader audience." Mr Cullen said.

Under US law, all foreign political parties must report the sums raised by donations to the Department of Justice there.

hnews@herald.ie

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