22 March 2001 Edition
Sinn Féin's United Ireland message is heard from DC to Seattle
Six Sinn Féin representatives traveled to North America last week in order to meet with the new American administration as well as with communities across North America.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Minister for Education in the northern Executive Martin McGuinness, Martin Ferris, Gerry Kelly and Michelle Gildernew visited Seattle, Montreal, New York, Boston, Kentucky, Syracuse, New Jersey, Springfield, and Washington DC. Bairbre de Brún was in Montreal and Ottawa and Martin McGuinness was in Toronto.
Gerry Adams was met in New York by the Governor, George Pataki, who accompanied Adams to a community meeting in Yonkers, New York, where members of the community asked questions and were briefed on the status of the peace process. The new Cardinal of New York, Cardinal Egan, also met Adams.
The Sinn Féin president next travelled to Washington, DC, where he met President George W. Bush at the Speaker's Lunch on Thursday and again at a St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House on Friday. He also met Secretary of State Colin Powell and had an opportunity to speak to National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.
At the White House reception, President Bush took the opportunity to pledge his support for peace in Ireland. Bush said: ``Much of the progress toward peace in the past several years has been aided by the engagement of the United States. As I told Prime Minister Blair - and I will tell Prime Minister Ahern tomorrow - the United States stands ready to continue in that engagement. The reason is simple: peace in Northern Ireland is in America's strong national interest.''
Adams then left Washington, DC for Atlanta, Georgia where he met with community leaders and attended a very successful fundraising dinner. Civil rights activist and former Mayor and Congressman of Atlanta, Andrew Young, was one of the hosts of the dinner.
Young said: ``I've been asked many times tonight, what am I doing at a St. Patrick's Day dinner. There's something in the human spirit that comes out when justice and fairness are denied. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, `Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere'. Whenever you see people struggle, I have to identify with that struggle.''
Adams said of the event: ``I was very much moved. I felt very humble. Our situation isn't particularly Irish. It's as old as humanity itself. It's a struggle to have ownership of our lives, to have dignity. Wherever this happens, it's a struggle for all of us.''
Martin McGuinness travelled to Kentucky where he rang the World Peace Bell, a monument to world peace, and attended a dinner and community event in Newport. McGuinness also helped break ground for a new Famine Memorial in New York with Governor Pataki. The Famine Memorial will occupy a half-acre site at the corner of Vesesy Street and North End Avenue in Battery Park City. He also visited the constituencies of Congressmen Richie Neal and Martin Meehan and participated in local St. Patrick's Day events in Massachusetts.
Gerry Kelly visited Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Trenton, New Jersey, where he attended some community events and met with political leaders, and Syracuse, New York, where he attended a series of St. Patrick's Day events with Congressman James Walsh.
Martin Ferris went to the West Coast, making stops in Seattle and San Francisco and meeting with local political representatives there. Michelle Gildernew made her first trip to the United States for the annual St. Patrick's Day events, visiting the Mid-West in Cleveland and Detroit and stopping off in Pittsburgh before returning to Ireland. While in Cleveland, she attended a St. Patrick's Day lunch with the city mayor. In Pittsburgh, she met with many of the political players, including Senator Rick Santorum, Congressman Bill Coyne, State Senator Tim Murphy and Mayor Tom Murphy.
The Sinn Féin representatives were warmly welcomed everywhere. The support for Sinn Féin's active work for peace and justice and a united Ireland was clearly demonstrated by capacity crowds at every event. Irish American desire to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented in full was reiterated at every opportunity.
Sinn Féin minister honoured in Montreal
Sinn Féin Executive health minister, Bairbre de Brún, was the centre of attention during St. Patrick's Day festivities in Montreal, Canada. Over half a million people turned out to watch the city's annual St Patrick's Day parade wind its way along downtown St Catherine Street and see Minister de Brún walk with the Montreal Coalition for Peace in Ireland, whose members kept up a steady chorus of chants calling for the Good Friday Agreement to be respected.
De Brún was flanked by dignitaries such as Gilles Duceppe, MP and leader of the Bloc Quebecois Party (BQP), Marlene Jennings, MP for the ruling Canadian Liberal Party, and Warren Allmand, president of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development. De Brún was welcomed on the reviewing stand by leaders of Montreal's Irish community and Montreal mayor Pierre Bourque.
The parade appearance was the climax of a very successful visit to Montreal and Ottawa for the Sin Féin representative. On Thursday, 15 March, de Brún met with Ian Green, the Deputy Health Minister of Canada. She was subsequently received at the Canadian Parliament by the Canada-Ireland Parliamentary Friendship Group, where MPs from all five federal parties welcomed her and expressed concern over the lack of progress on the policing issue in the Six Counties. In the afternoon, de Brún met with representatives of the Canadian Labour Congress and gave a republican analysis of the peace process to members of the Canadian External Affairs Department. She thanked the Canadian government for its support of the Irish peace process and urged that it continue to play a positive role.
In Montreal, on Friday, 16 March, de Brún met with Gilles Duceppe, MP and BQP leader, and Francine Lalonde MP, the BQP external affairs critic. She then spoke to the president and several executive members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (280,000 members). At noon, the health minister attended the annual Montreal St. Patrick's Day lunch, where she received an enthusiastic reception. That evening, de Brún was honoured at a reception held at the offices of the St Jean Baptiste Society. Over 200 people, including many federal and Quebec politicians, came to meet her and express support for the peace process, including Quebec cabinet minister Louise Beaudoin and SSJB president Guy Bouthillier. The tremendous reception received by Bairbre de Brún shows clearly that the republican message is being heard and appreciated internationally.
BY KEVIN CALLAHAN
The West Australian branch of Austrlaian Aid for Ireland took part in the annual At Patrick's Day parade in Fremantle, organsied by the Tara Club.
Dr Simon Adams and the committee of AAI led a 150-strong delegation with the theme of supporting the Good Friday Agreement. Finannce officer Kevin Murphy said: ``It was wonderful to see such a large turnout of support as this is the first time AAI has received permission from the Tara Club to take part.''
AAI (WA) is now preparing for its Easter Commemoration, which will take place in The Blarney Castle on Easter Monday and feature a host of live entertainment.