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4 September 1997 Edition

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`United Ireland will be reality' - Adams in US

By Mick Naughton

``A united Ireland is not only a possibility but it is going to become a reality.''

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP's first words on landing at Kennedy Airport in New York last Tuesday afternoon reflected the confident mood among the strongest Sinn Fein delegation ever sent to the United States.

Flanked by senior negotiater and Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness and Cavan Monaghan TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin, Adams said that this visit, with the imminent start of peace talks, would be a vital staging post on the journey to a lasting peace in Ireland.

``President Clinton, the US political establishment, and Irish-America have in recent years played a pivotal role in the search for peace.

``Our visit this week has a number of objectives. We will be talking to the White House and to political leaders in Washington, and briefing them on the current situation.''

Adams said everyone was now entering the most critical phase of the peace process, and probably the most crucial peace talks this century. And while thanking Irish-America for its support and encouragement he also cautioned that ``the time ahead will be fraught with difficulties.''

He concluded by asking everyone in the US to redouble their efforts to ensure that US backing for the peace process does not waver.

``We must keep our focus firmly fixed on the prize of a democratic peace settlement,'' he said before flying to Washington for a hectic series of top level briefings and meetings.

The Sinn Fein delegation had been welcomed at the airport by New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi and Republican Congressman Peter King after flying from Dublin where Adams had urged Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble to take part in the forthcoming talks and listen to his grassroots.

During their five day stay the delegation are meeting President Clinton's National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger in the White House, Secretary of Commerce William Daly, and Senators Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, Robert Torricelli and Alfonse D'Amato. A packed press conference in the National Press Building in Washington on Wednesday heard the Sinn Fein anyalsis.

Buoyed by this years spectacular Sinn Féin election successes a reception was organised by Irish American groups in the Phoenix Park Hotel, just a few hundred yards from the Capitol building.

Thursday sees meetings with members of Congress and the House Speaker in Capitol building itself.

Caoimhghin O Caoláin stressed the importance of the meeting with Commerce Secretary William Daly. The TD will be renewing contacts made with the late Assistant Secretary of Commerce Chuck Meissner who with Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was killed in plane crash over Bosnia. As a result of his meetings with Meissner O Caoláin secured a visit by the Assistant Commerce Secretary to Monaghan and a follow-up visit by US industrialists to aid economic development in the border region.

The signifcance of the Sinn Fein delegation was acknowledged by an invitation to it from the International Relations Committee of Congress. Headed by New York Congressman Ben Gilman this powerful committee took the MacBride Principles under its remit in 1995. The committe has since signalled its interest on several occassions in front of senior political officers from the British Embassy.

The BBC and ITV are sending TV crews to shadow the delegation on their four hour train journey from Washington to New York on Thursday afternoon. There will be a press conference prior to the main fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. An Irish community rally will be held in the 1500 seater Roseland Ballroom where the Wolfe Tones and other bands will play on Friday evening.

Also on Friday New York City mayor Rudolph Guilliani will host a press conference at City Hall shortly before a meeting on Friday evening with the group representing families of Irish political exiles threatened with deporation from the US. They will raise the cases of those facing deportation due to their political beliefs. And the three H Block escapees Kevin Barry Artt, Pol Brennan and Terry Kirby will meet with Martin McGuinness in the Federal Penitentiary in Pleasantville near San Francisco. On Saturday Caoimhghin O Caolain is scheduled to address a major rally in Chicago's International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers building before the three join up again in New York for the return trip to Ireland.
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