13 October 2005 Edition
Warm welcome for Adams
Gerry Adams in Brussels: Progress made on peace funding
EOIN O BROIN
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, accompanied by party MEPs Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún were in Brussels last week, Wednesday 5 October, for a one-day whirlwind series of political engagements.
The trip was part of Sinn Féin's ongoing programme of political outreach with the European Commission and Parliament. Of particular importance during the visit was the party's lobby for a seven-year Peace III programme.
The day began with an Irish media breakfast. Representatives from RTÉ, the Irish Times, Irish Examiner, Irish Independent and the Press Association discussed Irish and EU political affairs with the Sinn Féin delegation.
Series of meetings
The Sinn Féin team went on to a series of meetings with political groups from the European Parliament. First up was the Green/European Free Alliance group, which includes Europe's Green parties and progressive nationalists from Catalonia, Scotland and Wales. Italian MEP Monica Frasoni, Vice President of the Group met with the Sinn Féin delegation and discussed recent developments in the Peace Process. The meeting also explored ways in which the EU could assist the successful implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
A similar meeting was held with Graham Watson MEP, a British Liberal Democrat and leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe group in the parliament.
Gerry Adams also held a meeting with up to 100 MEPs and staff from the United European Left/Nordic Green Left group to which Sinn Féin is affiliated. The response was supportive both of the party's role in the EU and Sinn Féin's recent stewardship of the Peace Process. MEPs from Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Italy warmly congratulated Gerry Adams on the success of Sinn Féin in recent elections and on his party's handling of the Peace Process. Adams outlined his hopes for the future of the Irish Peace Process and both the transformation of Irish and European society on the basis of social and economic justice.
A well-attended press conference saw journalists from media outlets in Ireland, Britain, Spain, the Basque Country and Germany among others enquire about the process of putting weapons beyond use, peace funds and Sinn Féin's hopes for the months ahead.
Gerry Adams also did a series of running interviews between meetings with all the major EU news services such as EU Reporter, EU Observer and Euro News. There was also considerable interest from a wide range of European newspapers, radio stations and television channels.
Peace funds request
One of the most important meetings of the day was with European Commissioner for Regional Development Danuta Hubner. Commissioner Hubner, who had recently travelled to Ireland to see first hand the impact of the Peace funds, outlined her support for the Irish Peace Process. She also indicated that in her view it was important for the EU to play a supporting role. In her Department's assessment, the peace funds were a very successful tool for assisting conflict resolution in Ireland. She explained that any future peace funds would require a decision by the European Council, scheduled to meet in December, and that a request would have to be made by Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair.
Gerry Adams described the meeting as "extremely useful" and "very productive". Speaking afterwards he said: "I outlined to Commissioner Hübner Sinn Féin's very strong view that the EU should enhance and support the Peace Process by making available a Peace III fund, to build on the positive work of Peace I, Peace II and the Peace II extension.
"A Peace III programme requires the British and Irish Governments, to move speedily in the next two months to ensure that this happens. This is a key priority issue for the future. It has major implications for the viability of many essential community projects in the North and border counties, which have been working hard for peace and reconciliation. Peace funding has also contributed enormously to communities overcoming the effect of years of conflict and discrimination. I am hopeful with political will we can make progress on this issue."
Issue raised with Ahern and Blair
Following his Brussels trip Gerry Adams raised the issue of a future peace fund with both Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern. Sinn Féin also sought meetings with the Socialist and Conservative groups in the parliament and with the parliaments President Josep Borrell. Unfortunately schedules did not allow for these meetings to take place. However Bairbre de Brún and Mary Lou McDonald will meet Borrell later in October. Martin Schultz MEP, leader of the Socialist group agreed to a meeting at a future date and the Sinn Féin team are also looking forward to a meeting with the Conservative EPP group at some point in the future.
The day in Brussels ended with a packed public meeting chaired by the President of the United European Left/Nordic Green Left group, Francis Wurtz MEP. Over 200 people from almost every country in the EU and every political group in parliament put questions to the Sinn Féin President for an hour and a half. Contributions from the floor included MEPs from the French and Italian socialist parties and staff from the Conservative EPP. The public meeting dealt with a wide range of questions including the Irish Peace Process, Irish neutrality, the EU Constitution, global poverty, Sinn Féin's attitude to European iquot;
An Phoblacht Magazine
AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:
- The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
- It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
- There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.