Wednesday 18 September 2019

The 82-year-old mechanic who was behind Sinn Féin's €1.6m political donation

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Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

A deceased 82-year-old mechanic was the man who left Sinn Féin £1.5m (€1.6m) in his will, it has emerged.

William E Hampton, who was living in Wales before he died, made two substantial donations to the party after he passed away last year.

Northern Ireland Electoral Commission records  yesterday revealed Mr Hampton, who has a British passport, donated £500,000 (€551,350) to the party in April and £1m (€1.1m) in May.

The donations are the largest ever given to a Northern Ireland political party - and Sinn Féin could be in line for further funding from Mr Hampton’s estate.

A solicitor representing Mr Hampton yesterday told RTÉ  that his client made a will in the 1990s in which he left money to a number of individuals.

However after these payments were made the rest of his estate was  to be given to  Sinn Féin.

Belfast-based O’Muirigh Solicitors said their client was a life long supporter of Sinn Féin. Mr Hampton was born in London in December 1935 and held a British passport.  He was not married and had no children.

A Sinn Féin source sad they could not rule out the possibility that there could be further donations made in Mr Hampton’s name given there were two instalments in April and May of this year.

“At the minute we don’t have any details on him or how much he left. We don’t know whether there is more to it,” he said.

It is was reported that Mr Hampton had assets in other jurisdictions, which are still being litigated over, but the main assets were in England and Wales.

Electoral Commission rules on individual donations stipulate that parties can only receive them from person who are on the UK electoral register or are an Irish citizen. These includes bequests. 

A Sinn Féin spokesperson  would only say the party received a “significant donation from a party supporter who passed away”.

“We’re obviously pleased that he has chosen to bequest this sum to the party and it’s a positive boost to Sinn Féin in working towards Irish unity and towards our political objectives,” the spokesperson said. “We are in full compliance with the requirements of the Electoral Commission on all of this,” he added.

The donation to Sinn Féin made up the bulk of all money given Northern Ireland’s political parties between April and June 2019.

The total figure given to parties stood at £1.8 (€1.9m) with around £372,856 given to the other parties.

Of the money donated the majority came through public funds from the House of Commons, Northern Ireland Assembly and the Electoral Commission.

Only donations above £7,500 (€8,273) have to be reported to the Electoral Commission.

Due to Sinn Fein’s donation the amount donated to the parties in the second quarter of 2019 was over £1.5m more than the previous quarter, from January to March.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had previously held the record for the largest donation after a pro-Brexit group known as the Constitutional Research Council donated £435,000 (€479,900).

Head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland Ann Watt said that the publishing of the amounts donated ensured transparency in party funding.

“The political party donations and loans data that we have published allows voters to clearly see how parties in Northern Ireland are funded,” she said.

“This transparency helps to enhance public confidence and trust in our democratic process.”

Donations to Northern Ireland’s political parties are now made public after legislation was introduced in March 2018 to publish details of donations made from July 1 2017 onwards.

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