By Ray O’Hanlon
Friends of Sinn Féin can look back on 1998 with a smile. The U.S. fund-raising group notched up a sum that will likely exceed $800,000 for the year.
Plans for 1999, should they bear fruit, will keep the money rolling into Sinn Féin’s coffers in Ireland, where the party is working hard to increase its legislative influence on both sides of the border.
FOSF is anticipating a veritable deluge of top party people around the St. Patrick’s Day period.
As many as 20 U.S. cities will be visited by leading Sinn Féin members, including Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, FOSF’s president, Larry Downes, said this week.
FOSF is this week preparing to file figures with the U.S. Justice Department for money collected in the six-month period ending last Oct. 31.
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"It was a good year," Downes told the Echo.
While the final six-month sum is yet to be tallied, indications are that it is certain to reach well over the $500,000 mark.
When money collected for the final two months of 1998 is added, and when estimates for the first four months of ’98 are additionally included, the total figure for the calendar year is likely to exceed $800,000.
The May to October ’98 six-month take is considerably higher than the total for the previous six months. For the period running November ’97 to the end of April ’98, FOSF collected just over $280,000.
The figures are all gross totals and FOSF stresses that much of this money is actually spent on U.S. tours such as the one planned for March.
Names being linked to the upcoming tour — in addition to Adams and McGuinness — include Mitchel McLaughlin, Alex Maskey, Pat Doherty, Martin Ferris, Gerry Kelly and possibly Bairbre de Brun.
And while traditional ports of call such as New York and Washington, D.C., are listed for stopovers, the tour is also likely to include visits by party leaders to corners of the U.S. not previously on Sinn Féin’s map.
Visits to Maine, Montana, Texas and other Southern and Western states are in the works.
Gerry Adams is expected to concentrate his efforts in the South. Martin McGuinness is the likely visitor to New York.
"We have a dual strategy for the upcoming tour. Yes, we want to raise money, but we also want to get the message out to all corners of America, to meet new people and new organizations," Downes said.