Former Facebook manager based in Dublin and Serbia runs Sinn Féin social media here and US
Sinn Féin has hired a former Facebook manager whose digital consultancy business has operations in Ireland and Serbia to provide social support to the party on both sides of the Atlantic.
ODV Digital has bases in Stoneybatter in Dublin and Belgrade in Serbia.
The owner of the social media consultancy firm is Clare O’Donoghue Velikić, a former Facebook government and politics client partner .
Ms O’Donoghue Velikić has been providing social media services to Sinn Féin in Ireland and Friends of Sinn Féin USA.
Sinn Féin said the services provided by ODV Digital were “entirely separate” to consultancy work Ms O’Donoghue Velikić had been paid for by Friends of Sinn Féin USA.
The Dublin-based digital consultant worked for Facebook for almost a decade and founded the controversial tech company’s Government and Politics Marketing Solutions team.
According to her LinkedIn profile during her time in Facebook, she “established and maintained trusting relationships with political parties and Government stakeholders in Downing Street”.
She is an ardent supporter of paid-for political advertising on social media.
Ms O’Donoghue Velikić described the impact of the Cambridge Analytica Facebook data scandal that emerged after the Brexit referendum as “overstated” in an article she wrote for The Guardian newspaper in Britain.
In it, she also criticised Twitter’s decision to ban political ads, saying that if political advertising was banned on all social media platforms “it would push campaigning back into the shadows” and result in parties finding “more underhand ways to reach voters”.
She also worked as ‘head of paid social’ for the Together for Yes campaign during the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution campaign.
Details of Ms O’Donoghue Velikić’s links with Sinn Féin emerged after Fine Gael Senator John Cummins questioned why the party’s Facebook account was being managed from Serbia.
Facebook ad library information showed the party’s account was managed by two people from Serbia and several Sinn Féin TDs accounts were being operated from Germany. Mr Cummins questioned why this was happening and called on Sinn Féin to explain.
In a statement, the party said its “advertising on Facebook is managed in Ireland, in full compliance with Facebook’s advertising policies”.
“A party supporter who is now based in Germany works for our social media team. In Serbia, we have two party supporters who occasionally help out our social media team. This information is publicly listed on Facebook,” a spokesperson added.
When Sinn Féin’s comments were published, the party’s online supporters, including current and former members of their communications team, flooded social media with criticisms of the decision to publish details of the party’s links to Serbia. At first, Sinn Féin refused to answer questions about how those who manage their social media from abroad were paid for their work.
Ms O’Donoghue Velikić told the Irish Independent she regularly travelled to Serbia with her partner before the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said her sister and her friend were currently based in Serbia and help her with the social media side of her business. They were not paid for their work and she described them as Sinn Féin supporters.
She refused to say whether she was working directly with Sinn Féin in Ireland, saying she would not discuss current clients and had signed a non-disclosure agreement with Mary Lou McDonald’s party.
However, a Sinn Féin spokesperson confirmed ODV Digital “provides digital services to the party on a contract basis”.
Ms O’Donoghue Velikić confirmed she provided consultancy services to Friends of Sinn Féin USA.
Publicly filed documents in the US show she was hired on two occasions by the US-based fundraising organisation.
The former Facebook manager said she was helping the organisation with its social media output in the US.
“I am 100pc clear that any payment received for work with Friends of Sinn Féin was 100pc for work within the US,” she said.
A Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “Services provided to Friends of Sinn Féin are entirely separate to services provided to Sinn Féin.”