The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.60/No.12           March 25, 1996 
Sinn Fein Leader Gets Warm Welcome In N.Y.  


THE BRONX, New York - "There is that section of the British government that still believes it's got an empire - and that we're it!" said Gerry Adams, speaking here March 12. "They need to be told to leave the Irish people in peace - leave the nationalists, republicans, and Unionists to work out a future for ourselves."

A boisterous, youthful, overflow crowd of about 1,000 jammed Gaelic Park hall in the north Bronx to hear Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, the leading party in the fight to end British domination of Ireland.

Adams noted that it had been just over two years since he first spoke in the United States. Until 1994 Washington had denied him a visa to enter the country. At that time, Adams recalled, he had stressed Sinn Fein's aim to "take all the guns out of Irish politics" - those of the British troops, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the pro-British Unionists, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

He added, "We silenced the guns for a year and a half. And for 18 months the British government frustrated and tried to undermine and subvert the opportunity for peace." Adams pointed to the case of Irish republican prisoner Paddy Kelly as an example. "In the course of that [18 months] Paddy Kelly was refused medical attention by [British prime minister] John Major's government. We're now told Paddy Kelly is going to die," he said.

`Stop Irish political deportations'
Adams received especially loud applause when he pointed out, "I'm wearing a green ribbon, which is the symbol of the Saoirse [prisoner] campaign, and a badge against the deportation of Irish prisoners back to Ireland." Many people at the rally wore buttons that read, "Stop Irish Political Deportations."

"I am very sorry that the IRA cessation is over," Adams said. "My heart went out to those who were killed and the families of those who were killed" in IRA bombings in London in February.

He and John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, recently met with leaders of the IRA, Adams said. They "told us they weren't defeated, that they had fought the British for 25 years, that they had fought the British to a standstill, and that they wanted to give the British an put together a resolution to the conflict."

All-party talks are scheduled to start June 10, Adams said, but "the British government has put almost a barbed wire entanglement around them," setting preconditions. "How can there be all-party talks if Sinn Fein isn't involved; there can't be. They don't want change. The Unionists don't want change."

Adams called on those present to actively support the Irish struggle. "If it's just to wear the green ribbon in support of Irish political prisoners, that will part of the peace effort. If the British government is stubborn, intransigent, and stupid, if the British government thinks the Irish are second- class citizens, then you have to tell them that isn't the case."

Steven Toth, a 23-year-old construction worker from Northern Ireland, was one of many young people at the rally. "This side of the struggle is not being told," he said. "The IRA wasn't being recognized after 17 months of peace. Adams is speaking for the people, trying to bring peace in a fair and just way. The British are stalling."

Deirdre Noonan, 24, said she didn't like the bombing but "peace is more up to the British." Another participant, Sheila Horohoe, said she came because she had never been able to hear Adams when she lived in Ireland.

`I want to shake his hand'
While the big majority of those attending the meeting were Irish or Irish-American, others turned out as well. A young Jordanian immigrant stopped by a Pathfinder book table outside the rally, drawn by a placard saying "For a free, united Ireland." When asked if going in to hear Adams he replied, "Of course. I want to go in and shake his hand."

Adams answered a series of written questions from the audience, many of them about the future for all-party talks and about what people in the United States can do to help the peace process.

Some participants in the rally proposed supporting Democratic president Bill Clinton. The event was chaired by Frank Durkan, a lawyer with Americans for a New Irish Agenda, which grew out of Irish Americans for Clinton-Gore in the 1992 presidential election. Adams commented, "I acknowledge that this president has done more than any other president."

Toward the end, a supporter of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization shouted a complaint about their continued ban from the March 16 St. Patrick's Day parade. Adams called for the audience, many of whom booed, to "let the woman speak."

"The Easter Proclamation [from the Easter 1916 uprising against British rule] says to `cherish all the children of the nation,' " Adams said. "Enough people are against the Irish that we shouldn't shout the woman down. As someone who has been excluded from many places, I would like to think we're inclusive enough to allow everyone to participate in our celebrations." A minority of the audience clapped their approval. Adams is to march in the New York St. Patrick's Day parade.

Concluding the meeting, Adams said, "There are sections of the establishment that don't want peace in Ireland. Are we going to let them condemn us to the type of past we have had to live for decades and centuries? The answer is very straightforward: No, we are not."

Lisa Rottach contributed to this article.

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