BY BARBARA BOWMAN
KANSAS CITY, Missouri - "I thought Gerry Adams was very encouraging and positive. He has gained the respect of a lot of Irish who might not have agreed with his views prior to the cease-fire," stated Ronan Collins.
Collins, 30, moved to this Midwestern city from Dublin, Ireland, a year and half ago. He now heads up Celtic Fringe, a group that deals with the problems of recent Irish immigrants to Kansas City. He was part of a crowd of 220 who heard Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams speak at Rockhurst College here May 15. The Kansas City chapter of Irish Northern Aid and a number of other Irish-American organizations from Kansas City and St. Louis sponsored the meeting.
Asked whether the Irish Republican Army (IRA) should turn in its arms to further the "peace process" as the British government has demanded, Adams responded, "There are five armed groups in Northern Ireland and the IRA is only one of them. By far the largest armed force is the British government. There are 30,000 British troops, state police, and RUC [Royal Ulster Constabulary] forces in an area the size of Rhode Island.
"Sinn Fein wants all the guns taken out of Irish politics and will move with the others to advance the process until disarmament is brought to a reality," he said.
Another man asked Adams how the "Catholic ethos," would be preserved in the unified Ireland of the future. "No church should have to depend on the state to enforce its doctrine," responded Adams. "We need to be building an Ireland where people have total religious freedom. And it's fundamental that we have civil liberties. It's not a religious war in Ireland. The cause of the division of the people in Ireland is the British government, not religion," the Sinn Fein president emphasized.
Adams reported that since he has been allowed to travel to the United States and speak publicly in this country, the British government has lifted the Broadcast Act, which banned his voice and those of other Sinn Fein leaders from British radio and television. "Up until now when you were in RUC custody you had to speak, but you couldn't speak on the BBC," he said.
One questioner, noting empty seats in the theater, asked
if the bombing of the U.S. federal building in Oklahoma City
had made it more difficult for Sinn Fein supporters to
turn out for meetings across the country. "I don't know,"
Adams said. "I've spoken to large audiences during this
tour. The British government spends up to a $100 million in
the U.S. every year. They are powerful in terms of making
propaganda over here. It's very satisfying to come here and
begin a dialogue. This is a great beginning."
BY DAVID ROWLANDS
CLEVELAND - Gerry Adams participated in two successful events to raise funds for Friends of Sinn Fein Inc. during his one-day visit here. He encouraged people in the United States to play a part in this turning point in the struggle for a united Irish republic.
Cleveland city councilman Patrick O'Malley hosted a $250- per-plate buffet and reception with Adams as the guest of honor. This event drew nearly 150 supporters of Irish independence, including many elected city and county officials, candidates for office, a group of residents of Arab origin, and a few workers.
At the reception, Adams spoke of the tremendous response he has received in cities across the United States from many nationalities and ethnic groups. He said he was particularly pleased to have been able to meet with Native Americans.
Later that evening, Adams spoke to 350 people at a public meeting held at the West Side Irish American Club in Olmsted Township, west of Cleveland. Tom Coyne, mayor of Brook Park, introduced the Sinn Fein president. People attended from all over Ohio as well as Toronto, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo, New York.
Activists in Saoirse set up a table to pass out green ribbons and cards with the names of fighters for Irish freedom held in U.S. jails. Saoirse was set up to organize to win the release of all Irish political prisoners around the world.
Kevin Porter, a senior at Kirtland High School, said he had organized for a representative of Irish Northern Aid to visit his class. "It's excellent that Gerry Adams can speak in the United States," Porter said. "It's important to hear what Sinn Fein has to say, to listen to their side of the struggle."
David Rowlands is a member of United Auto Workers (UAW)
BY FRANK FORRESTAL
CHICAGO - "Britain failed to crush the Irish spirit in Ireland and here. The peace process is about getting our own back," Gerry Adams said with confidence, addressing more than 1,000 people gathered at Lane Tech High School here May 17. Irish resistance has remained undefeated because "the British have not been able to colonize our minds," he said. "This is the best opportunity for peace in 75 years. Let's not waste it."
Pointing to the green ribbon on his jacket lapel Adams encouraged the audience to become active in the Saoirse campaign, an international effort calling for the release of all Irish political prisoners. "There will be no peace until all the prisoners are released," said Adams.
He also encouraged the audience to support the Irish solidarity organizations and to appeal for support for the peace process from "elected politicians, women's organizations, unions," and others.
The audience included representatives from Native American organizations, the Union of Palestinian Women, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, and elected local politicians. Many participants drove long distances, coming from central Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. There were also activists there from the Irish-American Student Organization, which has chapters at five Midwest schools, and Irish Northern Aid of Chicago.
Prior to the Lane Tech meeting, the Sinn Fein leader was warmly received at a $250 fund-raising luncheon attended by 230 people in downtown Chicago.
Adams also met with the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune. "During his first visit to Chicago-the reputed terrorist turned peacemaker was treated more like a pop star," reported the Tribune the following day. In fact, his visit received more attention than the arrival of Douglas Hurd, British foreign secretary and former Northern Ireland secretary for London. Hurd, who was scheduled to speak to local businessmen here, "vehemently opposed President Clinton's decision in March to meet with Adams and allow him to raise funds in the U.S.," according to the Tribune.
While in Chicago, Adams also attended a successful book signing event for his work, entitled Free Ireland, Towards a Lasting Peace.
Frank Forrestal is a member of UAW Local 551 in Chicago.
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