Sinn Fein donor lived poor, nomadic lifestyle

Veteran republican Joe Cahill at the official opening of the party's office in Dundalk in 1996.
Veteran republican Joe Cahill at the official opening of the party's office in Dundalk in 1996.
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A journalist who knew the “lonely and sad” English man who left £2.5 million to Sinn Fein in his will, said the unlikely political donor had concerns he was being “persecuted”.

Former car mechanic and driver William E Hampton signed a will in 1997 – naming two senior Sinn Fein figures as the will’s executors – gifting almost all of his vast fortune to the republican party.

At the time, Mr Hampton was referred to as having “no fixed abode” as he was “living in my mobile home in Ireland,” but he provided previous addresses in Cambridgeshire, Aberystwyth and an address in Durrus, Co Cork.

His donation to Sinn Fein is by far the largest in the history of Northern Ireland politics.

Investigative journalist Paul Halloran was working for Private Eye magazine in London in 1989 when Mr Hampton approached him for help.

Mr Hampton believed he was being chased by accountants over money he inherited from his father, when in fact the accountants were attempting to give him dividend cheques from his family’s transportation company.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Halloran said: “He was very frugal and when I met him I thought, ‘You haven’t eaten for a while’.

“I took him out and gave him a bacon sandwich and cup of tea. That’s all he wanted”.

Mr Halloran said he was “not someone who lived well,” and added: “He was a very lonely creature and a sad man. He moved from place to place because he had the view that he was being persecuted.”

TUV leader Jim Allister has asked the National Crime Agency to investigate the donation.