By Ray O’Hanlon
Fresh on the heels of the party’s recent election wins, Sinn Féin’s fund-raising arm in the U.S. is reporting continued success in its efforts to raise dollars for party activities in Ireland.
The New York-based Friends of Sinn Féin has collected more than $3 million since it began fund-raising in March, 1995.
The exact running total this week, according to FOSF president Larry Downes, is almost $3.23 million.
The $3 million barrier was broken this year despite the 18-month period during which the IRA resumed its armed campaign.
While FOSF was not legally barred from raising funds in the U.S. during that time — February 1996 to July ’97 — the resumption of the IRA’s activities effectively placed any large-scale fund-raising on ice.
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For the duration of the resumed campaign, the view was taken by FOSF that successful large-scale fund-raisers centered on party leaders such as Gerry Adams would have faced severe difficulties.
Given the running total to date, it would appear fair to speculate that if the IRA cease-fire had not been interrupted, the present total collected by FOSF could well be approaching $5 million, a large sum in Irish political terms.
FOSF continually stresses that the collected money reported to the Justice Department every six months is a gross figure.
According to Downes, FOSF spends a considerable amount of the money collected from U.S. donors in the United States, an example being the tour by a dozen leading Sinn Féin members last St. Patrick’s day.
The tour covered virtually every geographical region of the country and saw party president Gerry Adams touching down for the first time in states such as Texas and Georgia.
While it is difficult to pin down a sum collected for each calendar year — FOSF reports to the Justice Department cover consecutive six-month periods ending in spring and fall — the group’s president, Downes, said the figure for money collected in 1998 was "at least" $800,000 and probably a little over that.
He said that there were no plans for big fund-raisers during the summer months. The next full-scale event was likely in the last quarter of this year.
"We have some potential things on the drawing board," Downes said.