Belfast Telegraph

Irish-American businessman who played key role in Northern Ireland peace process passes away

Former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has paid tribute to Irish-American businessman William 'Bill' Flynn who played a key part in the IRA ceasefire of 1994 that paved the way for the Northern Ireland peace process.

Mr Flynn died yesterday at his home in New York at the age of 92.

He was a multi-millionaire businessman credited with playing a role in getting the US visa for Mr Adams in 1994, in the face of stiff opposition from the British government.

He was chairman of the foreign policy think-tank that issued the invitation to Mr Adams to come to New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel for a conference on the peace process..

He grew up in Queens, New York, but his father came from Loughinisland, in Co Down, and his mother from outside Castlebar, in Co Mayo. He had a hugely successful business career, becoming the chairman of the Mutual of America insurance company.

Mr Flynn was awarded an honorary Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth in 2009 in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the peace process. He played a key role as chairman of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and by regularly flying to Ireland to meet key figures.

Gerry Adams paid tribute to Mr Flynn and the role he played in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.

"He was one of America’s foremost business leaders, as well as a patron of great causes in support of humanitarian, civil liberties and health issues," the former Sinn Fein President said.

"I have known Bill Flynn for more than 25 years. We first met in Belfast after Bill had organised and funded a peace conference in Derry in 1992 called ‘Beyond Hate’. He met and was impressed by Martin McGuinness and later he travelled to Belfast where he and I met.

"In 1994 he arranged for the National Committee on American Foreign Policy to organise a conference on Ireland to which I was invited. I applied for a visa which was eventually agreed and I received a 48 hour restricted visa to New York. It was a key moment in the efforts for peace.

"Since then Bill has remained solidly behind the peace process. He travelled to Ireland many times, and consciously sought to reach out to unionists and loyalists and to engage them in the process of peace making and partnership government."

The Louth TD said that Mr Flynn was a long-time figure in relations between Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"Bill’s importance can be measured in the frequency with which all of the governments – Irish, British and US – talk to him and seek to involve him in whatever the current initiative might be," Mr Adams said.

"I always make a point of trying to meet Bill every time I visit New York. His analysis of the political situation in the USA and in Ireland, were always insightful.

"He was a good American patriot and a decent human being," Mr Adams concluded.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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