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Sam Boal/
Down Under

€2,000 price tag for 'Gold Table' at Sydney dinner with Mary Lou McDonald

The Sinn Féin leader is planning a tour to Australia to “engage with the Irish community”.

LAST UPDATE | 1 Jul 2022

TICKETS TO PURCHASE a ‘Gold Table’ at an upcoming dinner in Australia with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald are on sale for upwards of €2,000.

Tickets, which start at €140 for individuals and €1,400 for tables, will give access to a dinner in Sydney where McDonald will deliver a keynote speech on the pandemic, Brexit, and Ireland’s position in the world.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar previously lashed out in the Dáil at the plans for the dinner, saying that McDonald would be “clinking” glasses with Trinity alumni who are co-hosting the event.

The dinner forms part of a wider trip by McDonald to Australia where she is expected to meet with various members of the country’s Irish community.

A spokesperson for Sinn Féin told The Journal this afternoon that the party “will not be receiving any income from the tour”.

“It is to engage with the Irish community in Australia, with political representatives and with businesses and trade unions on issues in Ireland; north and south,” the spokesperson said.

They said that the trip “will be funded by the party”.

The Sydney dinner is co-hosted by the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce, which is organising a series of events with McDonald, and the TCD Alumni Sydney chapter.

A spokesperson for Trinity confirmed that the college itself has no role in planning or running the event.

Chair of the TCD Alumni Sydney Chapter Eithne McSweeney said that the ticket price covers the cost of the event and that neither the alumni group or the Chamber would make a profit.

Sweeney said that McDonald “is a TCD graduate who kindly agreed to speak at this years’ dinner”.

“The reason we are co-hosting it with the IACC is that they have a very active Irish community and it’s hard to engage the alumni network for our little annual dinner (especially after a 3 year hiatus due to Covid),” she said.

“Ms McDonald is a guest so obviously doesn’t have to pay for her ticket but everyone else, myself including, does.”

Sweeney said the dinner is not a Sinn Féin fundraiser and that a raffle on the night will be giving proceeds to the Irish Support Agency, “an amazing organisation that helps vulnerable Irish in Australia”.

Tickets are available to purchase individually or for a table, starting at $214.50 Australian dollars (around €140) and reaching $3,300 (around €2,150) for a ‘Gold Table’.

The $214.50 (€140) ticket is available for individual members or Trinity alumni, while other guests would be required to pay $242 (around €158).

A members or Trinity alumni table costs $2,145 (€1,400), with a guest table costing $2,420 (€1,580).

The Gold Table ticket “includes a seat at the VIP table with speakers”, according to the event website.

The event page outlines that the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce “will host a series of events​ ​across Australia this July, featuring keynote speaker Mary Lou​ ​McDonald, President of Sinn Féin and Leader of the Opposition in the 33rd Dáil”.

“Ms McDonald will share her thoughts on the impact of the global​ ​pandemic, on the implications​ ​of Brexit, and on the role of Ireland​ ​in both Europe and the wider world from a business and​ ​geopolitical perspective going forward.

“We look forward to being able to bring such a high-profile visitor to Australia to address our members and guests, and look forward to the discussion.”

The dinner takes place at 7pm on 21 July at View By Sydney, an event venue near Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Currently, the Dáil term is due to conclude the previous week. However, in recent years the term has been extended until later in July and a decision to do so again this year could yet take place.

The Tánaiste raised the trip in the Dáil earlier this month in response to pressing from Sinn Féin on the government’s response to the cost of living crisis.

During a Leaders’ Questions session, Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said: “As the Tánaiste hosted a private dinner last night to celebrate Fine Gael’s decade in power, the ESRI was finalising its report on energy poverty in this State as prices increase at the fastest rate in 40 years.”

Doherty said that “while Fine Gael toasted its success in government last night, the reality is many families are being pushed to the brink”. 

Varadkar called the comment a “cheap shot”.

“I hosted a dinner last night to thank colleagues for their years of service. There was no public money involved. Sinn Féin hosts dinners in America, charging people €1,000 per plate to attend, and the party leader flies first class to get there,” the Tánaiste said.

He said he believed McDonald was “about to announce” a trip to Australia where she would be “clinking” glasses with Trinity alumni.

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin interjected: “Anything to avoid the question – your housing crisis, your health crisis, your childcare crisis.”

It is not uncommon for Irish politicians to meet diaspora or other parties abroad, or to engage in fundraising events.

In May, Varadkar hosted a fundraising dinner in his constituency for Fine Gael, with tickets costing around €250 per person.

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