Belfast Telegraph

Michelle O'Neill: 'Nothing to see here' in £1.5m Sinn Fein donation

William E Hampton
William E Hampton

Sinn Fein's deputy leader Michelle O'Neill has said there is "nothing to see here" regarding a mysterious £1.5m donation left in a pensioner's will.

Last week, it emerged that former mechanic William Hampton, who was unmarried and had no children, bequeathed the money when he died in a nursing home in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in January 2018.

The will, consisting of assets totalling £2.6m, was drawn up in 1997 and named Sinn Fein's national treasurers at the time, Joe Cahill and Dessie Mackin, as executors and trustees.

It instructed that the money -  the largest donation to a political party in Northern Ireland in history - were to be used to cover election expenses, to fund Sinn Fein offices and advice centres, and to aid republican prisoners and their families in both Ireland and Great Britain.

Mr Hampton was living in a mobile home in Ireland when the will was drawn up.

Many have called on more transparency regarding the donation, with TUV leader Jim Allister asking for the National Crime Agency to investigate.

Fine Gael Senator James Reilly said Sinn Fein should return the donation to William Hampton's estate.

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill
Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill

Speaking on the BBC's Talkback programme, Michelle O'Neill said she had never met the benefactor, but welcomed his donation.

She said it would "help the party to build and lead the challenge towards a new and agreed Ireland".

"I understand it's a juicy story but there's nothing to see here," she said.

"A lot of people are trying to make something out of a story that isn't there. It's a significant donation - the party leadership will decide how it's used."

It is understood Mr Hampton inherited the money from his father, who ran a successful transport company. In addition to Sinn Fein, other beneficiaries included veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner and investigative journalist Paul Halloran.

Earlier this week, Mr Skinner claimed he had "never heard of" Mr Hampton.

Mr Halloran, however, did meet the mysterious benefactor, who he described as a "frightened individual" who lived a very frugal and hermitic life.

"He was a very lonely creature and a sad man. He moved from place to place because he had the view that he was being persecuted," he said.

"He was scared of people and went to live on his own in a caravan and then disappeared. There was no way of keeping track of him and I had no reason to."

Under HMRC rules, Sinn Fein will be exempt from paying inheritance tax on the £1.5m donation, thought to be around £470K, as any political party with at least two MPs is not liable to do so.

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