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.