Up to 1,000 delegates are now expected to attend the Sinn Fein organized conference on the need for a united Ireland, which will take place in New York on Saturday, June 13.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams will host the major forum entitled “United Ireland – How Do We Get There?” at the Hilton Hotel, 1335 Sixth Avenue at 53rd Street in New York City.
Among the main speakers will be Adams himself; author Pete Hamill; Professor Brendan O’Leary of the University of Pennsylvania, an expert on partition issues; Brian Keenan, the former Beirut hostage; and Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers International Union.
O’Leary should be particularly interesting. He has spent the last few years writing a constitution for the Kurdish part of Iraq and wrote several landmark books about Northern Ireland at the height of The Troubles.
Others expected to attend include William Flynn, former chairman of Mutual of America who played a major role in the peace process, and leading members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, including former president Ned McGinley.
There will be buses coming to the event from Pennsylvania and Connecticut as well as possibly from Boston.
It marks the first major event for Sinn Fein in America with the exception of the party’s fundraising efforts, since they came into power with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland.
Speaking of the conference Adams noted, “Irish America played a significant role in securing the peace process. The next important task is unity.
“As part of the work of the party’s task force on Irish reunification we are hosting a number of significant forums in Ireland, the U.S. and Britain over the course of the coming year.
“Our task is to mobilize support at home and internationally for the democratic demand for Irish reunification to be met. I am delighted that the first event in New York has attracted such significant support both from prominent individuals and organizations.”
The New York conference will be followed by a similar event in San Francisco on Saturday, June 27 at St. Anne’s Hall there.
It will be another opportunity for Sinn Fein to fly the flag in America and to put paid to the claims by dissidents that they have allowed a united Ireland to slip off the agenda.
From that point of view the American trip by Adams serves two vital purposes -- to show that the party is still intent on their ambition for a united Ireland, and also to re-engage Irish Americans on the issue.
It has been hard to keep the momentum up in America, but there will always be a hardcore, especially among the Ancient Order of Hibernians and older Irish organizations, that are drawn to the situation in Northern Ireland and what Sinn Fein is doing.
It is 15 years since Adams was first allowed into the U.S. on the famous 48-hour visa, and during that time Sinn Fein have built up a deep presence in America and collected millions of dollars here.
They have also delivered on their promises over that period, to bring the IRA campaign to an end and to take part in the political negotiations that brought about the landmark Good Friday Agreement.