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Friday 19 September 2014

SF accused of using €550k US war chest for elections

Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

Published 22/05/2014 | 02:30

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Lorraine Higgins said it is clear Sinn Fein has major questions to answer
Lorraine Higgins said it is clear Sinn Fein has major questions to answer

SINN Fein has been accused of running a "gold-plated" local and European election campaign after it emerged a staggering $750,000 (€550,000) was raised in the US in order to boost the party's coffers in Ireland.

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Figures obtained by the Irish Independent lay bare the extraordinary war chest that Sinn Fein is building across the Atlantic – the only political party in Ireland to do so.

As Sinn Fein candidates prepare for the party's biggest electoral breakthrough yet, tens of thousands of dollars in donations are being taken in from some highly questionable sources in the US.

The party is availing of UK laws which allow its Northern office to accept the massive sums from its US branch, while at the same time refusing to say exactly where the money is going.

Documents filed with the US Department of Justice reveal that $US747,944 (€547,952) was received in a 23-month period up until October.

This represents a staggering $US32,719 (€23,945) generated every month – a source of income that cannot be pursued by other parties who don't have a Northern base.

The party is receiving individual sums of up to $US20,000 (€15,000) and has even been left portions of dead peoples' estates. The cash pile lies in five bank accounts based in New York.

The staggering figures have led to accusations that Gerry Adams's party is using the "golden dollar circle" to finance its campaign in Ireland.

Because Sinn Fein's donations are being channelled to the North, the expenses watchdog in Ireland, SIPO, has no powers to investigate.

SIPO has been pushing Environment Minister Phil Hogan to force all parties to publish full accounts which it says may shed some light on how parties such as Sinn Fein are really funded.

A spokesman for SIPO admitted last night that donations channelled from the US to the North do not fall within its remit and therefore are not required to be disclosed.

The sums generated by Sinn Fein are on top of the millions of dollars raised through the New-York based Friends of Sinn Fein organisation.

Sinn Fein has been accepting donations from companies that have been embroiled in racism, embezzlement and corruption scandals, but the party has consistently refused to answer questions on this issue.

Last night, Labour politician Lorraine Higgins said it is clear Sinn Fein has major questions to answer and is running a "gold-plated" election campaign.

"It is about time Sinn Fein come clean on their sources and the extent of their fundraising in the interests of openness and transparency – which we hear a lot about from Sinn Fein these days," she told the Irish Independent.

Sinn Fein did not respond to a request for comment.

Irish Independent

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