IF Sinn Fein’s electoral support at home shows no sign of decreasing, what about financial support in America? Sinn Fein denies it was banned from fundraising in the States – although it seems to have been lent on not to. The party has raised more than $7 million (officially) in the US since the ceasefire, and how Sinn Fein is funded is increasingly coming under the spotlight.
The Times has picked up strongly on the theme of Sinn Fein’s finances, unsurprisingly, claiming the party has “murky financial arrangements“.
The Times claims that “the British Government has set a deadline of the end of this month for a plan to stop the party from benefiting from millions of pounds of foreign donations”.
Michael Evans and Helen Rumbelow report:
Paul Murphy, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, last month extended the special exemption that allows Sinn Fein and other parties in the province to raise money in the US for another two years.
But he said that this would be the last time that he wanted to give special favours to Northern Ireland parties, demanding the results of a formal consultation with all parties concerned by the end of March, The Times has learnt.
In 2000 the British Government made it illegal for parties to raise funds outside the UK. However, Northern Ireland was exempted because both the SDLP and Sinn Fein depended on fundraising in the Republic of Ireland. They were also allowed to keep donations anonymous, because of the threat of intimidation to donors.
This allowed Sinn Fein to continue to raise funds in America, which security sources said had netted them between £15 million and £20 million since the ban on such activities had been lifted by President Clinton in March 1995.
Over at sicNotes, Richard Delevan takes a hard line:
If it really wants to go the whole hog, the Bush Administration can close the Friends of Sinn Fein office (the US fundraising/PR arm that has to register as a “Foreign Agent”) and shut down that money pipeline. It can make it illegal for US citizens to donate money to Sinn Fein. But the Brits will save them the trouble by extending the ban on foreign funding to Sinn Fein – perhaps with an exception for the Republic.
However, as a US official said a few months ago, money can flow like water – if there are obstacles put in front of it, it flows around them to get to the same point. The British move only comes after their hand was essentially forced – which makes their recent decision to allow the NI exemption on foreign fundraising to continue look quite silly .