Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams will be in New York tomorrow to host the first of two conferences in America this month aimed at marshalling support for a united Ireland.
In announcing the ‘United Ireland — How Do We Get There?’ event, Mr Adams said: “We wish to raise awareness among Irish-Americans that the time has come to end the partition of Ireland and construct a new national democracy, a new republic on the island of Ireland.”
Irish-American groups attending include the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Irish Northern Aid (NORAID), the Irish National Caucus, and the Irish American Unity Conference.
Speakers will include former Lebanon hostage Brian Keenan and Peter Hamill, a former journalist who covered Northern Ireland for several New York newspapers.
“It’s not that people here think that something magical is going to happen on Saturday,” Larry Downes, a New York-based lawyer who heads Friends of Sinn Fein told the Belfast Telegraph.
“But things have a beginning long before they have a culmination. I think this is the beginning of the home-stretch, if you will.” Mr Downes said that many sceptics thought the peace process would never advance, and that the IRA would never decommission its weaponry.
“And that has not proven true. And, leading both of those efforts, by the way, was the same person leading the current effort. And that’s Gerry Adams — who even his biggest enemy would have to admit is a very good strategic long-term thinker, who then manages to follow-up what he’s working on.”
However, Professor Padraig O’Malley, the Dublin-born academic based at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, told the Telegraph that the role Irish-American groups can play in achieving a united Ireland is negligible — particularly since the Good Friday agreement states that unity cannot be achieved until a majority in Northern Ireland agree to it.
Prof O’Malley also said that domestic bread-and-butter issues are far more important to most Irish-Americans. “Given the recession and people’s advanced preoccupation with their own jobs and their own futures, I don’t think that this is going to serve as any tool that will effectively mobilise Irish-Americans on the part of any initiative for Irish unity,” he said.
Prof O’Malley, who organised the Helsinki initiative that saw Northern Irish politicians discuss peacemaking lessons with different Iraqi factions, also expressed scepticism that political support for unity will be found in Washington.