Gerry Adams, the controversial leader of the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), brought a message of peace to Quinnipiac on March 17.
Adams’ lecture, “The Irish Peace Process – A United Ireland,” outlined the political situation that has specifically plagued Ireland over the past 100 years. His speech was one of peace and love for those in the warring countries.
“The business of peace is making friends with enemies. It’s easier to dehumanize. . . We mean it when we say equality, and that we don’t want any more second class citizens,” Adams said.
Adams was born in Northern Ireland in 1948. He has been politically involved with the Irish Republican Army and the Irish Civil Rights movement since the 1960s. Adams is proud to be part of the fastest growing political party in Ireland. He said the party will be 100 years old next year.
His work and the work of the people in Northen Ireland still has a long way to go. Northern Catholics are still being discriminated against in terms of housing, language, education and employment by the British government.
Throughout his efforts to bring peace to Ireland, he has been imprisoned, opposition has targeted his family and the British killed his brother-in-law.
In his speech, Adams emphasized the power of the individual. He pointed out that Americans have the power to vote and can influence those in a position to have influence on the peace process in Ireland.
“Ireland looks to the USA. because of the amount of Irish Americans that are proud of their ancestory,” Adams said. “People in Ireland began to see that people outside the frame cared. Ten years ago, the idea of me coming to speak with you would have been impossible,” Adams said.
Professor Sean Duffy of the political science department felt that this was an important concept for students to walk away with.
“I’d like students to start realizing that the world of politics and political problems is central to our existence as humans,” Duffy said.
Another aspect of Adams’ speech was the credit that he gave to the Unionist party, the opposing party, working together toward peace.
“Governments, specifically the British, have to learn to have an agenda. They can’t come in with questions and the answers…we have to listen to what the Unionists want. We cannot ignore them,” Adams said.
Progress between the Unionists and the Republican party for a united Ireland has been made with the assistance of the United States. During the Clinton administration in 1998, the president aided in the Good Friday Agreement. This agreement addressed the relationships between both parts of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. Clinton promises that during his administration he would set a precedent in Irish-American relations. He kept his promise.
Part of making progress is understanding the opinions of both the Republicans of Sinn Fein, and the Unionists and British government.
“It’s important to listen to others, and consider their opinions whether we agree with them or not. There were some who objected to Gerry Adams even appearing at Quinnipiac because of his position on the issues, and his possible involvement with a form of political behavior we don’t approve of,” Duffy said. “He has ideas that need to be part of the discussion [Unified, Independent Ireland,] we shouldn’t refuse to hear him either.”
Adams’ speech had an impact on the theater community here at Quinnipiac as well.
“The Troubles with Romeo and Juliet” is the spring play directed by Dr. Crystal Brian. The play is set in 20th century Ireland, and portrays the struggle of the division of the Irish in Northern Ireland.
“We have watched him (Gerry Adams) in numerous videos, we have read his books, and to actually meet him I think intensified the reality of context of our production for the actors,” said Dr. Brian.
Shawn Grindle, junior production major and independent major in theater performance, echoed Dr. Brian’s prediction.
“He brought to my mind the urgency and severity of the situation over there and that it is a global issue happening in a small part of the world,” Grindle said.
Grindle has been to Ireland before and has always been interested in the political situation there, but did not have a complete understanding of the Sinn Fein’s position. Adams’ lecture helped Grindle understand what justifies the party and why they feel as they do.
Allison Clark, junior production major, also has an independent major in the study of theater, saw the parallels between Adams’ message of the fact that an individual matters and can make a difference.
“What struck me the most about the lecture was Gerry Adams’ emphasis on how it only takes one person to really make a difference,” Clark said.
Adams was elected as minister of Parliament from West Belfast in 1983. He has not taken his seat because of the compulsory oath of allegiance to the British Queen. Adams has also written several books, A Pathway to Peace, The Politics of Irish Freedom and Selected Writings, Falls Memories, an autobiographical memoir, Cage Eleven, and an autobiography, Before the Dawn.