Sinn Féin “in the red”

Another interesting report in the Irish Times, Sinn Féin in the red for the first time in years. According to Sinn Féin’s Finance Director, Dessie Mackin The party’s accounts for the year 2004 will be published in April and will show that it is “in the red for about €400,000” – that’s the party’s head office accounts, which for 2003 showed a surplus of €271,358, and for 2002 recorded a surplus of €188,639.Some detail of SF’s Head Office accounts, and official assets, are given –

Mr Mackin said the party owns numbers 44 and 58 Parnell Square, Dublin, and 51, Falls Road. Its accounts give a value of €1.88 million to these buildings. Number 58 Parnell Square was bought in 1984 for Ir£47,000.

“We’ve benefited from the boom,” he said.

Number 51-55 Falls Road, Belfast, is owned by a company called Sevastapol Developments, on behalf of the party, which leases it.

Wages and salaries in 2003 were €550,190. Mr Mackin said everyone employed by head office gets the same salary, €500 a week gross. There were 22 positions during 2003 in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Secretaries and assistants employed by elected representatives are not paid by the party but by the British and Irish exchequers.

Additionally local cumainn’s accounts are not included in the head office accounts –

Local cumainn also raise finance and own or rent property, and their finances are not included in the head office accounts. Most properties owned have mortgages against them.

Mr Mackin produced a list showing 16 properties in the Republic and 31 in Northern Ireland, that are owned or leased by local party units. He said 5, Blessington Street, Dublin, was sold by the party a few years ago.

Ownership of 44 Parnell Square goes back to 1911, he said.

Recently the party had set up two companies, Republican Merchandising Ltd and Parnell Publications Ltd, which are concerned with, respectively, the party’s Dublin shop and internet site, and its newspaper, An Phoblacht.

As the companies were only recently set up, no accounts have yet been filed. The setting up of the companies will mean the party will save on VAT payments.

Mr Mackin said operations such as the Felons Club in Belfast are heavily regulated and have nothing to do with Sinn Féin’s finances. “Apart from merchandising, we have no other form of business whatsoever,” he said.

The article finishes with some details of Mr Mackin’s own business dealings –

Mr Mackin, a native of Belfast, was joint Sinn Féin national treasurer with the late Joe Cahill for 10 years up to about four years ago, when the party established the position of finance director.

He is a member of the ardcomhairle. Arrested in 1972, he served three years in prison in the North for membership of the IRA.

He said he was always interested in business and this was why he worked on the party’s finances.

He said that “around about the time of the ceasefire” he became more involved in his personal business affairs and now owns businesses and property here and property in Portugal.

His first business venture was a pool hall in Dundalk, where he now lives. He secured loans from the bank to buy and develop the business, he said.

He made investments in property in Dublin “for tax reasons” in the period before property prices in the city began to rise steeply.

Working with an old friend based in Belfast, he established a cleaning company and a security services company. Both of these were involved in supplying services to the Sheridan IMX cinema complex on Parnell Street, Dublin and other companies in the area.

The Sheridan businesses collapsed a number of years ago though the operation of one, Century City, an amusement arcade, has since been taken on by Mr Mackin.

No doubt some wag will ask whether these figures include all recent transactions.. and, according to the Electoral Commission, with representation in either Westminster, the NI Assembly or the European Parliament, a political party is required to have an accounting year of 1 January to 31 December.

But the cynic in me has to note the fact that in a 2003 High Court judgement, in SF’s failed appeal against the refusal of an Electoral Commission policy development grant, specific mention was made of the fact that “there was no suggestion that Sinn Fein was so lacking in financial resources that its failure to receive the grant would prevent it from imparting information or ideas, or from developing policies for electioneering”.. hmmm.. Will that decision now face a renewed legal challenge?