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Sinn Fein leader to talk at ND

Sheila Flynn | Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Gerry Adams, president of the Irish political organization Sinn Fein, will make his first visit to the home of the Fighting Irish today, delivering a lecture in Washing-ton Hall at 5 p.m.

“He’s always wanted, I understand, to come here, just given its iconic importance,” said Breandan MacSuibhne, program coordinator for the Keough Institute for Irish Studies.

“Notre Dame is of very iconic importance to Irish America.”

Adams’ lecture is cosponsored by the Keough Institute and the Office of International Studies. MacSuibhne said that Christopher Fox, director of the Keough Institute, was responsible for extending the invitation to Adams, the president of Sinn Fein.

“There was an attempt to bring him out several years ago, but the proposed visit fell through the last time because of unexpected developments at home in Ireland,” MacSuibhne said.

Sinn Fein is an Irish political party seeking reunification of Ireland, which, under Adams’ leadership, has achieved increased electoral success. In the early 1980s, Adams oversaw Irish republicans’ first interventions in electoral politics amidst perceived British censorship and sectarian violence, surviving an attempt on his life in 1984. A key figure in initiating the Irish peace process and arranging the 1994 IRA ceasefire, Adams remains at the forefront of Northern Irish politics.

He represents West Belfast as a member of the British Parliament and also serves the same district as a member of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly established under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

“There’s been massive demand,” MacSuibhne said of ticket requests, noting that an overwhelming number of undergraduates, as well as faculty members and graduate students, have expressed interest in the event.

“I think it’s [that] Adams is widely recognized now for being a critical person in the pursuit of peace in Ireland – central to the Irish peace process,” MacSuibhne said of the interest.

All tickets had been distributed as of March 10, but a live video stream of the lecture will be available online, and there will be a closed circuit television broadcast in the LaFortune ballroom.

“It’s a big conflict in modern time,” said junior Irish studies minor Mike Adams. “[It’s] such a great opportunity to see him … just to learn more about the situation.”

Gerry Adams is expected to discuss the Irish peace process and Irish America during his lecture, which will be followed by a question-and-answer session. During his time on campus, he will also meet with Fox and Father Theodore Hesburgh, Mac-Suibhne said.

Adams’ visit is part of the Keough Institute’s series of public talks and lectures, which included, earlier in the year, visits by Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney and former Irish Prime Minister Garrett Fitzgerald.

And Mac-Suibhne said that Adams’ lecture, scheduled amidst a busy United States trip including various Washington, D.C. functions, adds another distinguishing notch to the Keough Institute’s reputation.

“It just indicates the kind of importance, or the prominence, of the Irish studies program here at Notre Dame,” he said.

“It just further puts the Irish Studies program at Notre Dame firmly on the map.”