27 September 2012
US political leaders and Irish-America hear Martin McGuinness and Conor Murphy
'We all know that Sinn Féin wants a united Ireland – Sinn Féin knows that it can’t do it alone'– Jack Kilroy
MARTIN McGUINNESS, Sinn Féin deputy First Minister, and Conor Murphy, MP for Newry/Armagh, were in the United States for a series of meetings last week, including two Forums on Irish Unity.
Conor Murphy was the main speaker at a forum in Cleveland, Ohio, United Ireland, from Dream to Reality at the West Side Irish American Club on Sunday 9 September.
A panel of local activists including Jack Ryan (State Director for Senator Sherrod Brown), AOH National Treasurer Danny O'Connell, and Kathleen Whitford (Chair, Cleveland Ladies AOH Freedom for All Ireland). They each presented American perspectives on work for a united Ireland.
Pat Kempton, a stalwart activist of many years with Irish Northern Aid, could not be there due to health reasons but sent a letter to the forum on a strategy for Irish-Americans to help achieve unity, pointing to getting resolutions passed in states and cities across America.
The chair and moderator was Jack Kilroy. Opening the forum, Jack said:
“We all know that Sinn Féin wants a united Ireland. Sinn Féin knows that it can’t do it alone; it needs the involvement and some level of agreement with the other parties on the island, North and South, to reflect the aspirations and democratic mandate of the people of Ireland.
“Whether you’ve campaigned for human rights in Ireland, for fair employment through the MacBride Principles, for a visa to the United States for Gerry Adams, for the humanitarian treatment for political prisoners, or for an end to British rule in the Six Counties, you are a stakeholder.”
Conor Murphy was interviewed on the Gerry Quinn Radio Show, which has a listenership of 20,000, and on the Beyond the Pale Irish Radio.
Conor then travelled to Washington DC, joining Martin McGuinness for a series of meetings on Capitol Hill and a Forum on Irish Unity and Reconciliation and the role of Irish America on Wednesday 12 September.
The Forum was chaired by Congressman Richard Neal and attendance included members from New York, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
Congressman Peter King, Chair of the Congressional Friends of Ireland Committee, was to be the co-chair but the fatal attack on Americans in Libya prevented his attendance.
Activists from the IA organisations in the general DC area attended as well as interested individuals and several trade union leaders, including Terry O'Sullivan, President of LIUNA, which has more than 500,000 members.
Rep Neal introduced Martin McGuinness and Conor Murphy, pointing to the leadership shown in the Peace Process by Sinn Féin. He spoke movingly about his own realisation that the conflict in the North of Ireland needed help and involvement by America when he heard of the death on hunger strike of Bobby Sands and the nine other political prisoners.
Conor Murphy spoke about being the representative of a border constituency with the unnecessary duplication of services. Martin McGuinness outlined the progress that has been made through the peace process and the good working relationship between himself and DUP leader Peter Robinson, progress that would have seemed unobtainable in the past.
He also spoke about his and Sinn Féin’s outreach to unionism and the need for reconciliation.
Congressman Bill Keating (Massachusetts) said how important it is for members to hear from people like Martin and Conor and he welcomed them to Capitol Hill. This was emphasised by Congressman Brian Higgins from Buffalo, New York.
Contributions and questions from the audience showed a high level of knowledge and a confirmation that Irish unity is seen as not only desirable but achievable.
Joe Roche of the AOH and Jack O’Brien spoke of the relevance of Ireland’s future to Irish America and the priority given to it by the IA organisations.
Terry O’Sullivan was the last speaker. Terry said that James Connolly’s famous quote, “The cause of Ireland is the cause of labour, the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland”, is as relevant today and he reminded the meeting of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising occurs in a few short years.
Martin and Conor also met with Democratic Party House of Representatives Leader Nancy Pelosi (California) – who assured them of continued interest and support in their work for peace and reconciliation – and with Rep Tim Murphy (Pennsylvania).
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