Monday 16 September 2019

Mystery €1.6m Sinn Féin donor lived in a caravan

SF windfall set to grow as assets are uncovered

William Hampton: ‘Assets in Ireland, England, Singapore and New Zealand’
William Hampton: ‘Assets in Ireland, England, Singapore and New Zealand’
Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

The mechanic who left Sinn Féin a record-breaking £1.5m (€1.65m) was living in a mobile home in Ireland at the time of making his will.

He was of "no fixed abode" when he wrote his last will and testament, but William E Hampton left an estate of almost £2.6m (€2.87m) in the UK when he died in January last year.

The sheer size of the UK estate and the mention of other global assets mean Sinn Féin may yet be in line for further windfalls from Mr Hampton.

Very little had been known about the life of Mr Hampton, whose massive donation became public last week, except that he lived for a time in England and west Wales.

It is understood he was a recluse who inherited considerable wealth from his parents, had no children, and supported Sinn Féin's activities for decades.

Now legal documents show he insisted that on his death the majority of his remaining assets in "Ireland, England, Singapore and New Zealand" should be bequeathed to the party.

The will, seen by the Irish Independent, was made in June 1997 and shows how Mr Hampton decided to make the party's then-national treasurers Dessie Mackin and Joe Cahill the executors and trustees.

Their address is listed as 44 Parnell Square, which is the party's headquarters in Dublin.

Mr Hampton stated he was "presently of no fixed abode as I am living in my mobile home in Ireland" but that he was using a solicitors in Aberystwyth, Wales, as his postal address.

A separate Probate Registry of Wales document confirms that when he died on January 11, 2018, Mr Hampton left an estate in the UK worth £2,599,605.

Mr Hampton left several sums of £1,000 to various people in his will, including British Labour MP Denis Skinner and 'Private Eye' investigative journalist Paul Halloran.

But his will states: "All the rest, residue and remainder of my estate of whatsoever nature and whatsoever situate, to include my assets in Ireland, England, Singapore and New Zealand and other assets I may have anywhere else in the world I give devise and bequeath to my executors and trustees... the political party in the Republic of Ireland known at this time as Sinn Féin."

The money was intended to "cover election expenses, to fund Sinn Féin offices and advice centres and to aid Republican prisoners and their families in both Ireland and Britain".

He said that if Sinn Féin was no longer in existence at the time of his death, then the money should go to "the political party to which Mr Gerry Adams, MP, then belongs".

If Mr Adams were already deceased or no longer a member of a political party then the money was to go to "the Republican or Nationalist party in the six counties other than the SDLP which has the largest number of elected local councillors".

Sinn Féin will not have to pay any inheritance tax on the £1.5m (€1.65m) gift.

Under HM Revenue and Customs rules, any political party that has at least two MPs in the House of Commons is not liable to pay inheritance tax on such a gift.

Sinn Féin has seven MPs but because of its abstentionist policy they do not take their seats in Westminster.

The windfall for Sinn Féin was only made public last week by the Electoral Commission. The donation made up the bulk of all money given to the North's political parties between April and June 2019.

The DUP previously held the record for the largest donation given to a party in the North after it got £435,000 from the pro-Brexit Constitutional Research Council in 2016.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section