The newest income stream is the most intriguing. Two years ago the party revealed it had received £1.5m from the will of an English recluse, William E Hampton—by far the biggest donation in the history of Ulster politics. Cash from that source has continued to flow to the party, as Hampton’s assets are liquidated, with the total now at £2.9m.
Hampton was a retired mechanic with mental-health problems, who reportedly cut off his penis with a kitchen knife. When he travelled to Ireland to make his will, he registered no fixed abode. Yet he referred to assets in Ireland, England, Singapore and New Zealand. His will was made a month before the ira ceasefire in 1997; its executors were Sinn Féin’s treasurers.
It is only the border which Sinn Féin exists to destroy that allows it to keep the vast donation: gifts to parties in the Republic are capped at €2,500 ($3,000). The money buys a slick social-media presence, a substantial press operation and paid party organisers across the country. It also, as an observer notes, “buys you the freedom not to have to worry so much about what other people think…It buys you the ability to ignore the will of the electorate.”
An astute analysis of the under bonnet actuality of SF’s meteoric rise in popularity, although as the party’s catastrophic failure in Foyle shows, ignoring the electorate will only get you so far.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty