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28 January 1999 Edition

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Doherty lays out SF position at Noraid dinner

by Dennis M. Prebensen

``The objective remains the same: a united, independent Ireland''

Thus Pat Doherty, Vice President of Sinn Féin, summarised the Republican Movement's position on the Good Friday Agreement's strained and sometimes torturous process of implementation.

Doherty gave the main address to the capacity crowd at the 28th Annual Irish Northern Aid Testimonial Dinner, held last Friday in New York City. The dinner honoured three people who have devoted many years of tireless, unselfish work in support of peace and justice in Ireland: Jimmy Campbell, Kathleen Curtin, and Andy Fernandez, longtime Treasurer of the Hartford Unit of INA.

It was an evening for threes with three Congresspersons, three honourees, and three special remembrances.

Representative Ben Gilman, Chair of the House Committee on International Affairs, joined longtime friends Congreeman Peter King and newly elected Congressman Joe Crowley on the dais.

Paul Doris, National Chairperson of Irish Northern Aid, called upon those gathered for the Dinner to remember three special people, all of whom passed away over the course of the past year. The three, Barney McKeon, Fr Maurice Burke, and Paul O'Dwyer, were each was born in Ireland, but became well known and loved Americans

Pat Doherty spoke of the periods of crisis and tension in the ongoing peace process. ``Obstacles that seemed insurmountable and problems portrayed as insoluble have been overcome,'' he said. ``There is real commitment to progress and change.''

He reflected on ``the absolute determination and unflinching commitment to our Republican strategy for peace.'' The framework set by Republicans when they started on the road to peace was firmly based on the Republican ideals and goals. Despite all the turns and bumps in the road, ``the objective remains the same: a united, independent Ireland.''

Doherty praised the work and involvement of Irish America and President Clinton in this process. Your ``involvement is still an absolute cornerstone of the peace process,'' he told the audience. He called for continued American support to push the process along.

``We urgently need the positive pressure of the Irish American community to be kept up, to be increased, to prevent any further slippage in the program to secure... real change in Ireland. We have to put the issue of Ireland, and the real causes of conflict at the top of the international media agenda,'' he proclaimed.

Sinn Féin is again fighting the attempts by the Unionists to shut out Republicans from the new government. This has been the pattern of Unionist efforts over the past number of months since the Agreement came into being. It is even more critical today.

Time and time again, the Unionist have been able to stall setting up of the Executive.

Doherty told the several hundred people that he believes that the Unionists will not be able to get the two governments to abandon the Good Friday Document. ``The next steps in the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement are clearly visible,'' he continued. ``The executive must be established and the all-Ireland Ministerial Council must be set up.''

The dreams and hopes of the people of Ireland are wrapped up in the Agreement, Doherty explained. The votes on the referenda last May show that the future of Ireland lies in peace and justice. ``The Agreement, its institutions and propositions covering policing, human rights and equality are critical parts of the peace process. The old ways of domination and exclusion will not work.''

``We need our friends more than ever...'' he declared. As Ireland moves into the new millennium, there is continued role for Irish Northern Aid. ``There are still prisoners in jail in Ireland, England and the United States. The optimism and hope of the peace process and what we have achieved through it does not mean that we forget the suffering and sacrifice that many republicans have borne and still bear. [The families of the victims of the conflict] have only people like you to ease their burden.''

``It has never been easy to be a Republican,'' Doherty said, ``but, it has been an honour to share that proud designation with our friends here in America.''

The honourees



KATHLEEN CURTIN


Born into a Kerry family with a long Republican heritage, Kathleen grew up hearing stories of the atrocities committed by British Black and Tans. Her grandfather, Denis, was a member of the old IRA.

For many years, Kathleen attended commemorations, wearing an original `paper lily' since before she learned to walk. Her father sold the lilies outside church every Good Friday. Later she would accompany him as he drove to Tralee to pick up An Phoblacht each week for distribution in Kerry. Kathleen's father is now a Sinn Féin Councillor in Listowel, County Kerry, her home town.

Kathleen became involved during the Hunger Strikes. Before she came to the United States in 1985, she was a frequent visitor of prisoners in Portlaoise. In the early 1980s, she became the first woman to hold the position of Secretary of the Gaelic Football Club in Kerry.

Kathleen is now Manager of Niles Restaurant at the Southgate Hotel in Manhattan. She has three brothers, Denis, Tony (a New York City policeman), and Gerard.

JIMMY CAMPBELL


A native of County Mayo, Jimmy has lived in the United States since 1954. He is the owner of ``Shamrock Stables.'' A former driver of Horse drawn Carriages, Jimmy maintains a key interest in protecting the heritage of horses in New York City.

The Campbell family has a long history of activism against British repression in Ireland, dating from 450 years ago when the British settlers were given the family lands of the Campbells, the Maguires, the O'Donnells and others in East Tyrone and North West Armagh.

Jimmy has carried on the long time family tradition of working to secure freedom for his homeland and to end British repression in Ireland. Two uncles of his were active in the Republican campaigns in England during the 1930s and 1940s.

One of the most popular and genuinely nice people involved in Republican activity in America, Jimmy Campbell continues working for the freedom of Ireland.

ANDY FERNANDEZ


The son of Portuguese immigrants who came to this country during World War One and worked in iron foundries and textile mills to make a better life for their children, Andy is a veteran of World War II and graduated from the University of Connecticut.

Andy's wife, Maureen is from the Markets area of Belfast. They have two children, three grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter, Stephanie.

He joined Irish Northern Aid in 1979 and served with distinction as Treasurer of the Hartford, Connecticut unit for seventeen years. He prepared a book on the history of the north of Ireland in the late 1980s. Andy also published a monthly newsletter with news from the north. He remains an active writer to the prisoners.

Andy and Maureen became good friends with Joe Doherty and his family during the 1980s and they hosted members of Joe's family during their frequent trips to the United States. They remain good friends of the Doherty family.
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