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Sinn Féin has placed ads in papers across the US - but there's a softer approach this year

The ads have been taken out by the party’s US fundraising arm Friends of Sinn Féin.

SINN FÉIN’S US-based fundraising arm has again splashed out on ads in newspapers in various American cities to mark St Patrick’s week. 

But there’s a slightly softer approach this time around – while ads in recent years featured headlines touting ‘Irish Unity’ or referring to unity referendums, the focus this time is simply on wishing readers a Happy St Patrick’s Day. 

The copy goes on to note the US visit of Michelle O’Neill – the “first United Irelander in history to serve as First Minister” of Northern Ireland. 

The ad calls on “the Irish diaspora to join the debate in plan for Irish Unity” and for the Irish Government to “become persuaders” for reunification.

It goes on to call for the Irish and British governments to set a date for a unity referendum. 

Michelle O’Neill and DUP Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly are heading stateside for their first international trip since taking up the posts earlier this year and will meet with President Biden later this week. 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris and Stormont Economy Minister Conor Murphy have also travelled to the United States this week.

In a statement today, the party outlined that McDonald will take part in a “series of political engagements” in the American capital and in New York, and that she has placed Ireland and Palestine at the “top of the agenda”.

3b935a0d-b92b-49ed-a35e-58bec3f57008 Advert published by Friends of Sinn Féin in the New York Times today. Friends of Sinn Féin Friends of Sinn Féin

In 2021, 2022 and 2023, the adverts published by Friends of Sinn Féin included large headline text spelling out ‘Irish Unity’ or referring to the ‘Unity Referendum’. 

Last year, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar criticised the adverts, labelling them “unhelpful”.

The ads appear this year in the New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and a number of other papers. 

Varadkar told The Journal this evening in Washington DC that he had not seen the adverts today, but said he did not think it was helpful at this time is to demand for an early border poll or for a border poll date to be set.

“I think pressing for that and calling for that actually makes it harder for the Good Friday Agreement to work.

What we need now is a period of bedding down allowing the Executive and the Assembly to do their job,” he said.  

Since the restoration of Stormont, O’Neill and Little-Pengelly have promoted a united front between the two parties in favour of developing Northern Ireland.

“Now that government here is back up and running, it is vital that we seek every opportunity to attract investment, grow our economy and deliver for our citizens,” O’Neill said today.

Little-Pengelly said: “I am confident they will see the potential we have to offer and recognise our commitment to doing everything we can to ensure Northern Ireland thrives.”

There had been some public backlash about political leaders attending the annual St Patrick’s Day events in the United States this year, due to the country’s continued support for Israel.

McDonald previously downplayed the criticism however, and said that instead of boycotting events she would promote an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and a two-state solution in the region during the political engagements. 

No softening on Sinn Féin from Varadkar 

Varadkar was also asked if he had softened his viewpoint on Sinn Féin, but the Taoiseach said he had not, not when it came to considering a Fine Gael-Sinn Féin coalition. 

He said he very much likes and respects the First Minister of Northern Ireland, but said that forming a government with her party in Ireland is an entirely different matter. 

“I firmly believe that Sinn Féin will make Ireland broke again, if they pursue their economic and trade policies,” he said. 

“I know they’re telling one thing to business leaders but they are telling very different things to the Irish people,” said Varadkar, adding that when it comes to foreign policy, the party will “turn our friends and enemies”.

“That will be a very serious matter. Whether it’s supporting separatism in Spain, whether it’s already making an enemy of [European Commission] President [Ursula] von der Leyen by looking to veto her even though she will probably get re-appointed.

“If you look at their position on Cuba, Venezuela, which they are very quiet about here… I think a lot of countries that are friends of ours will be turned into enemies,” concluded the Taoiseach.

Political Editor Christina Finn will be in the US throughout the week for the Taoiseach’s visit. Follow @thejournal_ie and @christinafinn8 for all the latest.

Muiris O'Cearbhaill & Christina Finn