Activist for Irish peace visits STJ
Northern Ireland political activist Gerry Adams visited St. John’s on Tuesday afternoon to address “The Irish Peace Process-An International Model for Conflict Resolution.” Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, the only political party to hold seats in the parliaments of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, stressed the importance of unifying Northern and Southern Ireland and the need for Irish independence from the British government in front of over 300 students in Marillac Auditorium.
Adams, who visited St. John’s as part of a week-long St. Patrick’s Day tour, spoke candidly of the peace process in Ireland, claiming that communication was the only solution for Ireland’s civil and foreign disparages.
“There should be no predetermined outcomes; everybody has a right to put their agenda points forward,” Adams said. “We (Sinn Fein) want to do things in a dignified way, to do things in a spiritual condition. To seek peace, you have to see your opponents as human beings. To solve conflict, you need to construct a condition to listen.”
Adams claimed that patience, dialogue and inclusiveness are the keys to solve any conflict, something that Northern Ireland’s politics have lacked in the past.
“What is peace?” Adams said. “Is it an illusionary thing? It is an absence of conflict? We concluded that peace is the presence of justice. In conflict, there’s a need to get to causes, there’s a need for dialogue and a need to be inclusive.”
To date, the British government has picked and chose who to include in the dialogue over Irish independence, Adams said.
He explained that the main message behind his politics is to bring about the assembly of Northern Ireland, whose meetings have been put on hold by the British government for the entirety of its three-year existence.
“The assembly has never met,” Adams said. “I spoke to Mr. [Tony] Blair recently and told him that I want to see the institution in place soon. I plan on telling President Bush the same thing and hoping that he will assist in the Irish peace process.
“It’s a slow, tedious process, but we want to see a peaceful process and we want freedom from the British government,” Adams continued.
In attendance were notable guests such as former NYPD detective Stephen McDonald, former New York governor and St. John’s alumni Hugh Carey, and Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and founder of Wall Street Access, St. John’s alum Dennis Kelleher.
“In 1994, Adams persuaded the IRA to call a cease fire which helped the Irish peace process,” Kelleher said.
“An undefeated army choosing a peace path is huge,” Adams said. “The IRA agreeing to say their weapons were beyond use is history making.”
Upon Adams’ arrival to the United States, he was disappointed in learning that he would not be granted a fundraising visa by the United States government.
“I’ve been invited to the White House but I can’t walk around the corner and go into a restaurant,” Adams said. “The point of this event is to talk to people.”
The March 16 Sinn Fein fundraiser was thus changed into a non-fundraising event so that Adams could attend.
Adams’ pursuit of peace has transformed the IRA, which has progressed the peace process in Ireland.
“I remember watching the USSR collapse and saying ‘things can change,’” Adams said. “I remember Nelson Mandela turning from a criminal and a terrorist to a good guy after he was released from prison and I thought ‘change is possible.’”