Friday, July 3, 2009

San Francisco United Ireland Conference – A Good Beginning

From Left to Right: Ruan O Donnell; Rita O Hare; Fionnuala Flannagan; Gerry Adams and Robert Ballagh

July 3rd 09

San Francisco United Ireland Conference – A Good Beginning

Last Saturday as regular readers of this blog will know I sat in a pub in San Francisco and watched Antrim beat Cavan in the Ulster senior football semi final. Of course that wasn’t the reason I was in that US west coast city. My primary purpose was to host the second of Sinn Fein’s two US Forums on the theme of a United Ireland - and the role of Irish America in helping to achieve it.

The Forum was held in St. Anne’s Hall. Around 600 people from Washington State 800 hundred miles to the north, to San Diego hundreds more to the south, gathered from all along the US’s west coast to participate.

Two weeks earlier New York had been the setting of the first of the two Irish American conferences. It was widely acknowledged in the Irish American media as hugely successful.

As in New York a distinguished panel of speakers had been brought together to talk on the United Ireland theme. Among those participating were Professor Ruan O Donnell, Head of the History Department at Limerick University; internationally acclaimed actress Fionnuala Flannagan; renowned Irish artist Robert Ballagh; and John L Burton, Chairman of the California Democratic Party.

Pat Uniacke, of the GAA opened the first part of the proceedings saying that ‘the Irish diaspora and Irish America have a critical role to play in the quest for a United Ireland.’

I was the first main speaker and was followed by the panel. I reminded my audience that these conferences are only the beginning of the journey – a new phase in the struggle to achieve Irish reunification. I told them that a united Ireland can only be achieved by the people who live on the island of Ireland. However, as the peace process has shown the Irish diaspora, and particularly Irish America, has the ability and the political influence to significantly advance the goal of Irish reunification.

The purpose of the conferences in the USA I explained is so that the Irish diaspora can share with us and each other its ideas for strategies and initiatives which can help promote Irish reunification.

Professor Ruan O Donnell spoke of the many connections between Irish America and Ireland over the centuries. Ruan asserted that the Irish people are entitled to self-determination. Partition, he told the hall was never intended to be permanent. There is a logic to Irish unity and he spoke confidently of this being the final phase in achieving it.

Robert Ballagh gave a scathing analysis of the impact of partition on both parts of Ireland and linked the scandal of child abuse in southern institutions directly to the conservative nature of the southern state as it emerged after partition. He spoke of the need to look beyond the failed political structures and to encourage the widest possible dialogue.

Fionnuala Flannagan talked about the importance of achieving a United Ireland and of being a dissenter in Irish politics. She spoke movingly about the disastrous impact alcohol and drug abuse have had in Ireland and the importance of an all-Ireland approach to tackling these and other major social and political issues.

John Burton, who is the Chair of the Democratic Party in California is a former US Congressman and State Senator. He played a pivotal role in ensuring that the California state endorsed the MacBride Principles against discrimination in employment in the north of Ireland.

John endorsed the importance of beginning the conversation now about the role of Irish America in achieving Irish unity and he gave as a practical proposition a resolution to go to the Democratic Party in California which will endorse this position.

John Burton, Chair of the California State Democratic Party

And then it was over to the audience. Over two dozen speakers from a wide range of Irish American organisations gave their views. There was an wholehearted welcome for the conference and an enthusiasm on the part of all of the speakers to begin this new phase in the struggle.

The ideas mirrored in many ways those which had made in New York; lobbying state and national legislators and legislative bodies; proposing resolutions for city and municipal and community organisations; securing the support of other Irish American organisations; emailing campaigns; letter writing; holding other similar type conferences and much more. Making maximum use of social networking sites like u tube and face book was a constant theme.

One speaker was applauded when he suggested that an effort should be made to co-ordinate all of the St. Patrick’s Day events in the USA and to ensure that they adopt the United Ireland theme. Another spoke of the support which the Irish struggle had won over the years from other ethnic groups and that a real effort should be made to win support for a United Ireland from them.

At the end of the three hours all of those who were there left St. Anne’s excited by the conversations and uplifted by the possibilities that are now there. Of course, it is only the beginning but it was a good beginning.


Daithí said...

Is mór an trua, a Ghearóid, nach raibh aon iriseóir ón nuachtán Foinse chuige an imeacht a thuairisciú.

Aye, léigh mé do ráiteas inniú maidir leis an gceist seo...

...tusa ag cur an dorais faoi ghlas i ndiaidh don chapall a ealú.


Micheal said...

I'm delighted to hear that the conference on Irish unity in San Francisco went so well. The Irish diaspora are also victims of the division and subsequent fractiousness that has accursed the nation for so long and I've got no doubt that this disintegration has inflected the national character over time as well.

So many millions of Irish people have been destroyed- effectively by British imperialism- throughout the generations, that, from what has become clear to me, we are dealing with a secret holocaust.

Only when Ireland is truly independent and free, will the true extent of the destruction, and the true scale of the process of national healing and reconcilliation become evident and only then will this once proud nation be able to provide for all it's citizen's needs and requirements at the physical, emotional and spiritual levels.

The island has got an abundance of natural resources to provide for an excellent standard of living for all materially and the people have got an abundance of talent to ensure the highest quality of life for each and every citizen also.

And anyone who cannot or will not see this is a liar of the lowest order and a colluder and a collaborator and an imbocile (of the latter, unfortunately, there is an abundance but it's not their fault, they have been born that way and they're capable of becoming fully functioning human beings).

Your efforts, Mr. Adams, are very well appreciated. You are a person who cares for a people and that is a very rare thing nowadays. This nation will be great again. and we will serve as an example to the world. And we will build powerful alliances with other great nations and we will advance the republican cause worldwide and help to create a new civilization.

Linda Coleman said...

I like the idea of coordinating all the Irish festivals around a United Ireland theme, and, of course, using social networking sites.

Thanks again, Gerry, for all your hard work--now get some rest!

Robbi Óg McMillen said...

Hallo Gerry, caidé mar atá tú féin? Tá suíomh idirlín úr-nua ag Féile an Phobail!

Paul Doran said...

Good work Gerry.
It is hard to believe that Connolly,Pearse and all were doing this 100 yers ago.

Suas Leis An Phoblacht

Timothy Dougherty said...

Very Nice post Gerry, from what I have read the West Coast Conference on Irish Unity went very well,thanks in good part to your leadership. I was not surprised to hear of your commitment to a outreach program in social networking to bring the subject of Irish Unity to the forefront of awareness. I understand the use of Twitter and Youtube was on you agenda, I think that is a good approach to take at this early stage of your outreach. A good start and a wonderful regaining. I n-ithe na potoige bhionu a tástáil