IRA memorabilia helps Sinn Fein rake in a whopping £200k
Sinn Fein is still living it up in style in the United States, where its schmoozing with the rich and powerful has pulled in more than £200,000 in the space of just six months, it has been revealed.
In its latest returns to the US Department of Justice's foreign agents' register, the party declared earnings of $334,710 (£209,738) in its half-yearly returns to the end of May. The declaration was made by its Manhattan-based fundraising wing, Friends of Sinn Fein (US).
Sinn Fein is the only Irish political party that raises money abroad, and it has raked in huge sums from its fundraising arms in the US, Australia, Canada, Germany and Britain.
Its total earnings are secret, but it must make returns under US laws.
The party also profits from its online business wing, where a "hand-painted and framed" picture of the IRA "martyr" Bobby Sands can be bought for only £156.73.
The depiction of Sands and three IRA men firing a volley of shots over his coffin, with inscription and Celtic motif, is only one of dozens of items celebrating the Provisional IRA now on sale on Sinn Fein's web-based shop.
But Sands, who died at the age of 27 after 66 days of refusing food in the Maze Prison in May 1981, might not have appreciated some of the items commemorating his death.
A "Tiocfaidh ar la" leather wrist band at £2.34 might have caused his fellow hunger strikers to re-examine what exactly they were starving themselves to death for.
As might the "undefeated IRA" T-shirt at £11.75. An IRA mug at £6.65 at least has something more than purely decorative value, and a "hunger strike bodhran" at £94.04 might come in handy at one of the party's popular culture nights.
But Sands and his comrades would almost certainly have had difficulty with their struggle being commemorated by fridge magnets.
There are no fewer than five books by party president Gerry Adams on offer, underlining his position one of Ireland's most famous politicians.
Around half Sinn Fein's declared US donations from October 2013 to the end of April appeared to come from its $500-a-head annual gala dinner at the Sheraton Hotel on 7th Avenue in Manhattan, hosted by Gerry Adams.
From its declarations, it appears some 390 guests – many paid for by a number of major companies and big businesses – enjoyed cocktails and food at the November 7 dinner, at which the party received around $199,000 (£124,698) in donations.
Party vice-president Mary Lou McDonald, who flew business class on a recent fundraising trip to Australia, travelled out to the US for a five-day visit in March, staying in the Fitzpatrick Grand Hotel in Manhattan and the Hilton Garden Inn in Washington DC.
The Fitzpatrick Grand appears to have been this year's most popular shelter for senior party members. In previous years, they stayed in a variety of upmarket hotels in New York and Washington DC.
Assembly members Michelle Gildernew, Conor Murphy and Declan McLeer, and councillors Caoimhin MacGiolla Mhin and Cara McShane, also flew to the US for St Patrick's Day and Easter events this year.