Tuesday 23 July 2019

Watchdog: Sinn Féin overseas fundraising is beyond our remit

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams after making his keynote address
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams after making his keynote address

Niall O'Connor

A senior official at the country's ethics watchdog has admitted that Sinn Féin's overseas fundraising is beyond the remit of his organisation.

Des O'Neill, who is an investigator with the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO), confirmed that he has received a small number of complaints over the manner in which Sinn Féin is raising its cash.

But Mr O'Neill said he had been shown no evidence to suggest that the party was committing anything untoward.

Significantly, Mr O'Neill said SIPO could not investigate the party's US fundraising arm because it did not have the power to do so.

"The commission has no remit outside the boundaries of this State. The legislation passed in this State only applies in this State," Mr O'Neill said when asked if he has made any representation to have SIPO's remit extended.

"The commission is satisfied that the provisions of the Electoral Acts have no application to political contributions made to Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, or made to entities such as Friends of Sinn Féin in the US or elsewhere, which are given and applied for the purpose of funding of Sinn Féin's political/electoral activities outside this State.

"The commission has no remit outside the boundaries of this State.

"The commission has no evidence that any funding has been made available to Sinn Féin in this State from monies generated in the US or elsewhere."

The Irish Independent has consistently raised questions over the manner in which Sinn Féin has built up its US cash pile, which rests in five bank accounts in New York.

The party has been strongly criticised over its willingness to accept donations from organisations that have been embroiled in racism, embezzlement and corruption controversies.

This week, several party sources admitted that they know very little about how the money is used when it is channelled back to the North.

But the Irish Independent has confirmed that almost $50,000 (€46,110) was spent on printing costs in 2013, while thousands have been spent on the purchase of vehicles.

Sinn Féin has also collected significant monies from the estates of dead people.

The accounts in New York are operated by the Friends of Sinn Féin organisation, known internally as the party's fundraising wing.

Several party sources have this week admitted that there is a layer of mystery surrounding how Sinn Féin uses the money when it is channelled back to the North.

"I assume it goes into running constituencies but we don't ever ask questions about it," admitted one TD.

Along with donations, Sinn Féin also generates significant monies from hosting banquets.

Delegates were charged $500 (€460) to attend a dinner event last November, during which Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams openly joked about holding the editor of the Irish Independent at gunpoint.

The shocking comments by the Louth TD were condemned both at home and abroad.

Mr Adams has never apologised or withdrawn the comments, which have been seen as a veiled threat against the free press in this country.

Irish Independent

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