'Nothing to see here,' insists Sinn Féin over £1.5m windfall
Sinn Féin has insisted the £1.5m (€1.65m) it was left in a mechanic's will was "not unusual" and that "there's nothing to see here".
Mary Lou McDonald's party got the massive donation from Englishman William E Hampton. He was "of no fixed abode" and living in a mobile home in Ireland at the time he made his will in 1997. He was said to be a Sinn Féin supporter who came from a wealthy family background.
The executors and trustees of the will are listed as Dessie Mackin and Joe Cahill, who were Sinn Féin's national treasurers. But the party has revealed little about the circumstances of the donation.
Sinn Féin TD Louise O'Reilly said she couldn't explain the motivation behind the donation "because I don't know the man. I never met him".
Asked about the party's understanding of why Mr Hampton made it a beneficiary in his will, she said: "It's not unusual for people without living relatives to make bequests to organisations. That's something that happens every day of the week."
Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins has called on Sinn Féin to outline Mr Hampton's links to the party and how the donation came about "in the interests of transparency". Fine Gael senator James Reilly urged Sinn Féin to return the donation, warning it would be breaking Irish political spending laws to use it in the south, and called on Sinn Féin to confirm that none of it will be spent here.
Ms O'Reilly said the party was "well aware" of the rules on political spending in both jurisdictions north and south of the Border and that it couldn't be used in the Republic. "We can assure people that it will only be spent in line with the rules," she said.
Elsewhere, party vice-president Michelle O'Neill said the money would be used to "help the party to build and lead the challenge towards a new and agreed Ireland" and the party leadership would decide how it would be spent.
But, speaking on BBC Radio, she rejected suggestions there should be greater transparency about the donation.
"I understand it's a juicy story but there's nothing to see here," she said.