BY STEVE WARSHELL
CLEVELAND - "Sinn Fein has committed itself to end partition; end British rule in Ireland; and fight for Irish unity. That's what our Ard Fheis was all about. Our struggle will not be over until we achieve those goals," Pat Treanor, a Sinn Fein councilor, told 80 people here May 11. Sinn Fein, the party leading the fight to rid Northern Ireland of British imperialism, sent representatives Treanor, Joe Cahill, and Martin Ferris on a week-long tour of the United States. They will brief supporters of the Irish freedom struggle on the recent Ard Fheis (national conference), as well as urge support for a Yes vote on the recent agreement on Northern Ireland.
"Peace doesn't mean the same thing to everybody," Treanor noted. "To some, it has meant getting rid of Republican resistance. To us, it means dealing with the root cause of the conflict. It means Irish independence, equality and justice.... We call for a yes vote because we see it as a forward step along the road to our objectives."
At the same time, Treanor urged that supporters of a united Ireland to remain vigilant. "We expect further attacks against us. Soon marching season will be upon us and it remains to be seen how the Unionists and RUC will comport themselves." The annual marches by defenders of British rule through nationalist neighborhoods in Northern Ireland have been a flashpoint in the struggle. "Sinn Fein will make maximum use of what the document gives us to work with to continue to fight for the immediate release of prisoners and the withdrawal of British troops," Treanor added.
At the meeting Moises Centron, of the Cleveland chapter of the National Committee to Free Puerto Rican Prisoners of War and Political Prisoners, expressed his support for the struggle against British rule in Ireland and drew parallels to the U.S. occupation of Puerto Rico. To friendly applause of the audience, Centron invited all present to march on Washington July 25 to call for Puerto Rican self- determination and the release of Puerto Rican political prisoners.
The same night some 200 people turned out for a meeting in Yonkers, New York, with Sinn Fein executive committee member Martin Ferris. "At this point in history, we're at the strongest point since 1921," he stated. "There is realization across the island for united nationalist sentiment."
British prime minister Anthony Blair "says he'll never disband the RUC," one participant said in the discussion.
"The British government has said it won't do many things it's later felt compelled to do," Ferris replied. He pointed to London's recent decisions to meet with Sinn Fein without the IRA decommissioning, and to set up commissions to investigate Bloody Sunday and the RUC. "Every issue in the document is a major battle for us. But we're used to fighting and we'll fight until the British are out," he added.
"The most notable thing about the Ard Fheis was the number of young people," Ferris said in response to a question about the recent formation of Sinn Fein Youth. "It's a reflection of the confidence, especially with how people are standing up against the triumphalist marches" through Catholic communities in northern Ireland. "Once that was tolerated, but no more."
The Sinn Fein representatives will also speak in Detroit; Chicago; Carlstadt, New Jersey; Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri; and San Francisco.
Sara Lobman in New York and Militant staff writer Megan
Arney contributed to this article.
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