US donations to Sinn Fein exceed £11m after Manhattan event
Sinn Fein has raked in almost £12million in donations from the US following its latest New York dinner.
Around 700 republicans gathered in the plush Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan on Thursday night for the event costing $500 per head.
Party leader Mary Lou McDonald addressed the crowd, calling for a referendum on Irish unity within five years.
She said: "The choice is a failed union with Britain or a new union in the EU, let the people have their say. Secure a referendum, win a referendum."
The fundraiser has taken to $15m (£11.7m) the amount of cash raised in the US by Friends of Sinn Fein USA since it was first formed following the IRA ceasefire in 1994.
Party sources told Sunday Life the majority of the cash has been ploughed into election campaigns in Northern Ireland as strict rules in the Republic prevent large foreign donations being used by political candidates.
Fianna Fail MEP Billy Kelleher criticised the corporate nature of the Manhattan event, tweeting: "Sinn Fein has amazing double standards with passing $15m after New York dinner. They masquerade as a socialist party yet their nose is buried in capitalist, corporate America. It's a long way from west Belfast to Wall Street."
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According to the Irish Central website - part-owned by Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir (below) who is rumoured to be relocating to the US - the Sheraton Hotel event was heavily supported by Irish community leaders involved in the construction trade.
Similar fundraisers took place in Canadian cities Montreal on Friday night and Toronto last night, with a third scheduled for Ottawa tonight.
Former Belfast Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile, who now sits on the Irish Senate for Sinn Fein, spoke at the expensive black tie gatherings.
After the 1994 IRA ceasefires the party was quick to exploit the wealth of Irish republicans in the US - a tactic that has earned it close to £12m over the last 25 years.
Rival political parties have attempted similar strategies but got nowhere near Sinn Fein's level of support or financial backing.
The first ever Friends of Sinn Fein event in New York in 1995 was attended by future US President Donald Trump.
He shook hands with party leader Gerry Adams, who was given a rapturous welcome by a crowd including politicians and celebrities.
The Associated Press reported at the time: "Barred from the United States until last year, Adams drew celebrities and supporters to a posh Manhattan hotel for an unprecedented fundraiser Wednesday.
"Bianca Jagger, Tom Hayden, movie maker Michael Moore, and ex-mayor David Dinkins were among those paying $200 a plate to rub shoulders with Adams as Irish nationalist fundraising came out of the closet."