How Sinn Fein, the political successors of the IRA, got so rich
IN 1995 PHIL GRAMME, a Republican senator from Texas, bragged about having “the most reliable friend you can have in American politics, and that’s cash.” In Northern Ireland, they are Republicans of a different color, the left-wing political successors of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) —Who have this friend.
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Figures released on June 3 show that since donations were first released in 2017, Sinn Féin’s Belfast operation has received around £ 4.5million ($ 6.4million), more than double the amount. its main rival, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Polls suggest Sinn Féin will overtake DUP as the largest party in Northern Ireland in next year’s elections. This reflects the DUPscandals, internal quarrels and incompetence, but the financial weight of Sinn Féin also gives it an advantage.
The party raises funds in a conventional manner, with members selling raffle tickets, but not much. This fundraiser represents a little over 1% of his income. More comes from the party’s own politicians, who donate a share of their salaries. Sinn Féin says these are voluntary donations, but refuses to say how much is given. Records show that last year Northern Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill donated one sixth of her salary.
A second source of funding is America, where money once collected for the IRA now benefits Sinn Féin. As violence raged, the Irish Northern Aid Committee raised money at dinner parties, dances and bars in cities like Boston and New York. A circular began: “Dear friend, Congratulations! You have been selected to help end 800 years of British maladministration in Ireland ”. He was overtaken by the we Friends of Sinn Féin, which has raised over £ 11million since 1994.
The most recent income stream is the most intriguing. Two years ago the party revealed it had received £ 1.5million from the will of English recluse William E Hampton, by far the largest donation in political history from Ulster. Cash from that source has continued to flow to the party, as Hampton’s assets are liquidated, with the total now standing at £ 2.9million. Hampton was a retired mechanic with mental health issues who allegedly cut his penis with a kitchen knife. When he traveled to Ireland to draw up his will, he did not register any fixed residence. Still, he referred to assets in Ireland, England, Singapore and New Zealand. His will was drawn up a month before IRA cease-fire in 1997; its executors were the treasurers of Sinn Féin.
It is only the border that Sinn Féin aims to destroy that allows it to keep the vast donation: donations to the parties of the Republic are capped at € 2,500 ($ 3,000). The money buys a skillful social media presence, a major press operation, and paid party planners across the country. It also gives you, as one observer notes, “the freedom not to have to worry so much about what other people think … It gives you the ability to ignore the will of the electorate.”
This article appeared in the Great Britain section of the print edition under the title “L’or vert”