Sunday 23 November 2014

Sinn Fein enjoys lavish fundraising trips Stateside

Published 05/01/2014 | 02:30

Sein Fein leader Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald, TD, deputy leader of Sein Fein
Sein Fein leader Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald, TD, deputy leader of Sein Fein

SINN Fein held a reception in a luxury New York hotel last year to commemorate the 1913 Dublin Lockout, the Sunday Independent has learned.

The revelation is contained in unpublished reports on the party's US fundraising activities made to the US Department of Justice.

The 1913 Lockout event commemorating the mass industrial action in which Dublin workers went on strike for months over starvation wages was held in The Manhattan Club, a luxury hotel in New York's 7th Avenue.

The event was held during the annual visit by top Sinn Fein people over the St Patrick's Day period. According to the returns, the event was hosted by party vice president Mary Lou McDonald.

Documentation about the activities of the party's US fundraising arm, Friends of Sinn Fein, are contained in the latest report published by the Justice Department on its foreign agents register over the Christmas period.

The returns by Friends of Sinn Fein (FOSF) contain details of a variety of visits by senior and mid-ranking Sinn Fein members from Ireland.

It filed returns that it raised $369,445 (€272,000) from November 2012 to April last year and $326,918 between April and June last year.

It lists its total expenditure -- mainly in travel and in maintaining a full-time office in a central New York office block -- at $258,486 over the period from November 2012 and April last year.

The figures are broadly similar to amounts reported to the US Department of Justice since the party set up its US fundraising organisation in the late Nineties. It is the only Irish political party to have a fundraising organisation in the United States. There are also Friends of Sinn Fein organisations in Canada, Australia and Britain. Their returns are unknown.

The party travels and stays in style when it visits the United States. Like previous years' returns, the latest accounts to the Justice Department show its officials and elected representatives continued during 2013 to stay and be entertained in top-class hotels and restaurants.

During the St Patrick's Day and other visits to New York over the year, party officials and representatives stayed in a variety of top-end hotels including the Park Central New York Hotel on 7th Avenue; the Manhattan Hotel, Time Square; the Hilton Garden in Washington, the Sheraton 7th Avenue; the Westin Boston Waterfront in Boston; the Affinia Hotel on 7th Avenue, NY; and the Hyatt Regency on Columbus Landing in Philadelphia.

The Affinia Hotel in New York, the most frequently used by the party and where rooms start at around $300, is close to the FOSF's offices in the 420 Lexington Avenue office at Grand Central Station. The FOSF returns for last year record the party paying an annual salary of $50,000 to its director Conor Duffy.

The party treasurer Des Mackin, from Belfast, made his annual visit to the US in March, staying at the Hilton Hotel in O'Farrell Street in San Francisco. The FOSF report says he met attorney Cherie Evans of attorneys Evans and Rosen. Their website says the firm specialises in legal advice for tax-exempt and non-profit organisations.

While many party visitors to the US enjoyed near opulent surroundings and dining, Belfast's Sinn Fein Lord Mayor, Mairtin O Muilleoir, is recorded as hosting a meeting for "Irish-American organisations" at the Copper Kettle restaurant in Taraval Street in San Francisco in March.

The Copper Kettle is a small roadside cafe specialising in down-to-earth Irish food such as bacon and cabbage and breakfast rolls.

Gerry Adams and other senior figures continued to rub shoulders with influential and powerful figures in government and the financial sector during their visits.

Adams lunched with four congressmen including his longest standing supporter, Peter King from New York, in Washington in January. He followed this with a lunch with Kris Balderston, general manager of accountancy firm Fleishman Hilliard's Washington office in one of the chain of Bobby Van steakhouses in the city.

Bobby Van's, once a favourite dining place for Frank Sinatra and members of his 'Rat Pack', in New York has for years been Adams's favourite restaurant and he has shared his table with top financiers as well as powerful political figures.

In 2008 during his annual St Patrick's Day visit, he shared his table with senior figures from Lehman Brothers, the financial company whose collapse later that year heralded the global financial crisis.

Irish Independent

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