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16 March 2005 Edition

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US support still strong

BY JOANNE CORCORAN

Sinn Féin still has the broad support of the American people, party president Gerry Adams said this week.

Adams is in the US to attend high-profile political meetings in several US States, as well as numerous events to celebrate St Patrick's Day.

His visit has received negative coverage from the media in Ireland and Britain, which has jumped on the decision by the White House not to invite the North's political parties to its annual St Patrick's Day event as further 'proof' of Sinn Féin's so-called demise.

But Sinn Féin's spokesperson in Washington DC Rita O'Hare said the response to Adams visit has been fantastic.

"He attended a breakfast event at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York yesterday and it had one of the biggest attendances in its history," O'Hare told An Phoblacht on Tuesday.

"In fact, there were so many requests from the press to attend the event that they had to open it up to the media. This was unprecedented for that sort of event. People here are starting to realise that what they are seeing in the papers and other news imported from Ireland and Britain is not the reality of what has happened. Support on the ground is as strong as it ever was."

Speaking at the New York breakfast, Adams told the invited audience that the Sinn Féin leadership is determined to see the political process succeed.

"I haven't heard anyone saying we want to go back to conflict — that's the key," he said.

He said that despite any political "jockeying" or "nervousness", the "strength of the process is in the popular will of the people back home and the Sinn Féin leadership is totally wedded to making it a success".

Packed-out events

In addition to the breakfast event, Adams has been to several packed-out community functions.

"Everyone is giving us the same message," O'Hare said. "They're saying, 'We're with you, we support you'."

On Tuesday, Adams met with the Mayor of Philadelphia and was scheduled to attend two events in the state on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, he is due in Washington DC, where he will take part in a meeting with former US envoy to the Six Counties, Mitchell Reiss. On Thursday, he will meet with Congressional Represent-atives to discuss the current situation in the peace process.

The establishment media has failed to report any of this, seizing instead on incidents such as Senator Ted Kennedy's refusal to meet with Adams during his stay.

Disappointed

Responding to this development, the Sinn Féin President said he was "disappointed at this decision".

"Senator Kennedy has played a positive role in the process," he said. "Sinn Féin has worked closely with him in the past. On this occasion we believe that he has been badly advised. For our part, we will continue to tackle the issues which need to be resolved if the peace process is to succeed and we are confident that we will work with Senator Kennedy again in the future."

Kennedy's decision triggered criticism on Monday from New York Representative Peter King.

"Ted Kennedy is wrong. Gerry Adams has proven himself over the last ten years as being committed to the peace process," he said.

King plans to meet with Adams and Congressman Richard Neal on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey is also touring US States. On Sunday, he attended a large parade in Boston, and is heading to Pennsylvania later in the week for further Patrick's Day celebrations.

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