Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Who is paying for the McCartneys' American visit?

There are questions about who exactly is paying for the McCartneys' Sinn Fein-bashing visit to America:

The McCartney sisters from Belfast have embraced every party and no party since they launched their campaign on behalf of their murdered brother, Robert. But with evident limited financial resources, their arrival on U.S. soil this week was prompting questions as to who paid for their trans-Atlantic trip.

Speculation has focused mainly on the Irish, British and U.S. governments and the SDLP, a party that would have much to gain if Sinn Féin election prospects took a dive.

Information obtained by the Echo even pointed to the possible involvement of the CNN news network and/or Irish journalist Tommy Gorman, RTE's Northern Ireland correspondent.

"Baloney," was Gorman's immediate reaction when the question was posed to him shortly after he arrived in the U.S. to cover the McCartney visit.

It was Gorman's detailed reporting of the McCartney murder that raised coverage of the crime to its present level of intensity.

Gorman said that he himself had been trying to find out who might be funding the trip.

But beyond the view that it might be "some private donations" that are covering flights, ground transportation and hotels, Gorman said he could throw no further light on the mystery.

SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell denied that his party had given any money.

"The SDLP doesn't have any money to give, although I would personally give them money," McDonnell said.

McDonnell said he understood that an account had been opened in a Belfast bank for the McCartneys' campaign in recent days and that people might be sending money to it.

British Northern Ireland Secretary of State Paul Murphy denied any British government financing when asked by the Echo in New York Monday.

Murphy said he did not believe any of the government, British, Irish or U.S., had given money to the family.

An Irish government source said "no" when asked if the government had provided any funds for the U.S. visit by the sisters, and Robert McCartney's fiancé, Bridgeen Hagans.

While the cost of the visit is certain to run into the thousands of dollars, the sisters are being invited to and hosted gratis at a number of events, including the American Ireland Fund dinner in Washington, the White House St. Patrick's Day party, and events hosted by the Northern Ireland Bureau and the Irish ambassador to the U.S., Noel Fahey.

So where is the money coming from and why have so few in the media asked about the financing of this trip?


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