State Papers

Irish government queried bulk postal discount for Sinn Féin over IRA funding fears

Sinn Féin wrote to various companies and people appealing for donations to the party. Picture by Getty Images
Cate McCurry, Press Association

The Irish government queried Sinn Féin receiving a postal discount for sending bulk mail to the US over concerns it was helping to fund the IRA, previously secret files have revealed.

Sinn Féin wrote to various companies and people appealing for donations to the party, and has received millions in funding over the last three decades.

Declassified documents, released through the National Archives in Dublin, show that an Irish government minister queried whether he could prevent a discount deal between Sinn Féin and An Post for sending bulk mail to the US.

There were concerns that some of the funds raised in the US would be used to support the IRA rather than to "fill the election coffers of Sinn Féin".

A confidential letter sent in November 1988 shows that the then communications minister Ray Burke sought to use his powers under the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983 to order An Post not to make an arrangement with the party.

Dermot Gallagher, assistant secretary, wrote to Dermot Nally, secretary to the government, and said: "The Department of Communications informed us yesterday that their minister may raise the question at Cabinet this morning of using his powers to direct An Post to refrain from making an arrangement with Sinn Féin whereby a substantial discount would be given for bulk mailings to the United States appealing for funds.

"Since the tánaiste will be absent from Cabinet today, I am writing to you to provide our official observations.

"We are conscious that a direction by the minister may create trouble in terms of Sinn Féin propaganda or even court actions.

"It is also highly unlikely that refusal of the arrangement will prevent these bulk mailings going ahead by other means.

"We are conscious, however, that Sinn Féin is now seeking to organise directly in the United States and that these bulk mailings will assist in that effort.

"We are also conscious that some of the funds obtained in North America may well be used to support the IRA rather than to fill the election coffers of Sinn Féin."

The official ended the letter saying that the government should "not push themselves" in the position of appearing to allow Sinn Féin to make what it described as an advantageous arrangement with An Post for an appeal for funds in the US.

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