A newspaper advertisement campaign calling for a referendum on Irish unity, that ran in both the New York Times and Washington Post yesterday, was paid for solely from funds raised in the US, Sinn Féins US fundraising arm has said.
Friends of Sinn Féin (FOSF) said it could not provide a total cost for the half-page ads that were published in the New York Times and Washington Post yesterday as well as full page ads that will run in Irish-American newspapers like the Irish Echo and Irish Voice during St Patricks week.
An advertising rate card for the New York Times indicates that a half-page ad in the main publication would typically cost more than $50,000 (42,000). Industry sources indicated tens of thousands of dollars would have also been spent on a half-page ad in the Washington Post.
The initiative is endorsed by leading Irish-American organisations and solely funded through Friends of Sinn Féin fundraising here in the US, a spokesperson for FOSF told the Irish Independent last night. Our fundraising efforts are ongoing, and we are waiting for final bills to come in so I hate to give you a preliminary number.
The spokesperson added that details of the advertisement campaign will be reported in its next US regulatory filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) which covers groups representing overseas political organisations that are active in the US.
The advert, entitled A United Ireland let the people have their say, noted that the unionist electoral majority in the North is gone. It also appeals to the Irish Government to promote and plan for Irish unity and urges the British government to set a date for a referendum on Irish unity.
With your support, we can be the first generation of Americans to visit a free and United Ireland, the advert states.
The ad campaign is supported by a number of Irish-American groups, including the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish American Unity Conference and the James Connolly Irish American Labour Coalition.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald welcomed the move, saying: Irish America has been central to the signing and safeguarding of the Good Friday Agreement.
The most recent FARA filings show that Friends of Sinn Féin raised nearly $300,000 (251,000) in the six-month period to April of last year. The majority of the organisations funding comes from an annual fundraising dinner where tickets have typically been priced at $500-a-plate (420).
Speaking about the ad campaign yesterday, Northern Irelands First Minister and Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle ONeill said it was a timely initiative given the debate under way on unity that has never been witnessed before.
Partition has failed every single person who lives on this island. It created two conservative states, it has failed people time and time again, she said.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar criticised Sinn Féin, saying while he did not have a problem with the ads, he believed the party was an obstacle to unity.
In the Dáil, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Sinn Féin needed to be more accountable about how it is financed and described some of its funding as a shady enough transaction that would make even a stockbroker blush.
Ms McDonald, who had raised questions about the Davy stockbrokers controversy, said the comments were pathetic.
Online Editors