The second annual Martin McGuinness Peace Foundation dinner took place at the Manhattan Manor on Tuesday, April 4, where McGuinness’ good friend and partner in Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, gave the keynote address.

The night opened with a video commemorating the life of Rita O’Hare. Many recognized the work of O’Hare at the dinner and Adams dedicated his remarks to her memory, as he did the night before at Cooper Union.

US Congressman Richie Neal introduced his friend Adams. Neal reflected upon when he first met Adams and the congressman’s first trip to the North of Ireland during The Troubles.

During this trip when he was leading a congressional delegation, they were stopped and removed from their bus as British soldiers searched the bus and the congressmen. He mentioned that the life’s work of McGuinness and Adams over the decades during The Troubles culminated in the Good Friday Agreement.

While not perfect, the Good Friday Agreement has changed the political landscape and brought peace to the region. Today when you travel to the North, the only indication is a ding on your phone. That is because people like McGuinness and Adams not only fought for peace but fought to maintain it.

What a great tribute to Martin McGuinness by his good friend and colleague, Gerry Adams. Congressman Richie Neal...

Posted by Martin McGuinness Chieftain’s Walk NYC on Friday, April 7, 2023

Adams shared very personal stories of his friend McGuinness to a packed audience. He spoke of when he first met McGuinness in his early twenties. He talked about the great sense he had and his ability to befriend Ian Paisley.

McGuinness loved sports, all sports, it didn’t matter the culture or country. He just loved competition. Adams spoke to McGuinness’ character and gave the example of how when he was very sick and weak and had to step down as deputy first minister, insisted that he make the trip to visit Arlene Foster and convey to her personally that he was stepping down.

Adams advised McGuinness that that wouldn’t be necessary and he could call or send a note, but McGuinness insisted. That was the person he was.

Adams told the audience how deeply McGuinness loved his family. Martin’s wife Bernie and son, Emmett, were at the inaugural Peace Foundation dinner last year.

Adams spoke yearningly of how he missed both McGuinness and O’Hare. There were many that attended the dinner that had never seen Adams before and were moved by the heartfelt stories of his friendship with McGuinness.

Adams reminisced about his friend for more than 30 minutes and there wasn’t so much as a whisper to be heard. He closed by reading a poem Martin had written for his friend, “For Jamesie.”

“Have you ever seen a Manhattan sunset

from the window of an Aer Lingus jet?

Gloriously crimson

It was, blackening awesome skyscrapers.

Slipping towards Montana far away,

From Bloody Foreland.”

*This column first appeared in the April 12 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.