Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin rep's Wales visit weeks after £1.5m donor William E Hampton died

William E Hampton, and right, his gravestone where his ashes are buried in Hannahstown Cemetery in west Belfast
Brendan Hughes

A Sinn Féin representative went to Wales to secure papers on the party's record-breaking £1.5m donor three weeks after his death.

Dessie Mackin, an executor of William E Hampton's will, travelled to Pembrokeshire where the reclusive millionaire had been living in a nursing home.

For the donation to be permitted under the rules, Sinn Féin had to check Mr Hampton was on the electoral register within the five years previous.

The party provided the Electoral Commission with a letter from Pembrokeshire County Council confirming this.

Mr Hampton's political donation to Sinn Féin is considered the largest in the north's history.

Friends say the 82-year-old, who had no known links to Sinn Féin or Irish republicanism, bequeathed the huge sum to hit back at the British establishment.

Mr Hampton died on January 11 last year. A Pembrokeshire council spokeswoman said a "representative of Sinn Féin visited the council on February 1 2018".

"The representative received written confirmation that Mr Hampton was on the current electoral register," she added.

Emails seen by The Irish News show that when the Electoral Commission contacted the local authority to check, a council official recalled talk of Sinn Féin visiting the area.

"I do recall colleagues saying something on this and that someone from Sinn Féin had inspected the electoral register and may have had a police escort, or something along those lines," they wrote.

The letter Sinn Féin received from Pembrokeshire council confirmed Mr Hampton was on the electoral register "as of December 1 2017".

This is the date the electoral register is published each year. The council was unable to confirm to The Irish News the specific date Mr Hampton was placed on the register.

Dyfed-Powys Police said it was unable to locate a record of any police escort.

Sinn Féin said it was "simply untrue that there was any police escort or any police involvement".

"The executor of the will, Des Mackin, was notified by the county council of the death of Billy Hampton," a party spokesman said.

"As part of his duties to verify the details and legality of Billy Hampton's donation to Sinn Féin he had to verify that Billy was on the most recent electoral register.

"Billy's inclusion on the updated register was confirmed by Pembrokeshire County Council."

When Mr Hampton penned his will in 1997, his address was listed as 'no fixed abode' and stated he was living in a mobile home in the south-west of Ireland.

It has been reported he had a history of serious mental health problems, and when he died he was suffering from schizoaffective disorder which can cause hallucinations and depression.

His ashes were buried last year in a grave plot in Hannahstown Cemetery, west Belfast, in a ceremony attended by former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

The gravestone reads: "True friend of Ireland. Remembered by his friends and comrades in Sinn Féin."

In 2000, Mr Hampton wrote a letter from France saying that Sinn Féin no longer spoke to him "for security reasons".

TUV leader Jim Allister asked the National Crime Agency to investigate the donation and the origins of Mr Hampton's wealth.

However, Sinn Féin has insisted it complied with all Electoral Commission rules and regulations, with vice-president Michelle O'Neill saying there is "nothing to see here".

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