March 14, 2006
Perhaps there is something that looms larger than an Irishman
during the week of St. Patrick’s Day.
Northern Ireland political activist and Sinn Fein President
Gerry Adams hinted as much when he told the St. John’s University
community that peace in Northern Ireland “was bigger than the
“It’s part of our human condition,” said Adams, who began a
week-long tour of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United
States with a stop at St. John’s. “The big thing is to know you
don’t have to accept the situation as it is -- you can change
The University welcomed Adams to its Queens campus, where he
addressed "The Irish Peace Process -- An International Model for
Conflict Resolution,” before more than 300 students, faculty,
administrators and guests of the university community in Marillac
Adams said no conflict is the same, but admitted that he had
been moved by the experiences of former South African leader Nelson
“Conflicts have a cause and mostly it arises from injustice --
people being treated unjustly or people feeling they are being
treated unjustly,” he said. “We want to do things in a dignified
way, to do things in a spiritual condition. To seek peace, you have
to see your opponents as human beings.”
Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., President of St. John's
University, reflected on the remarks of the Northern Ireland
nationalist at the end of his address.
“We deeply appreciate Mr. Adams great commitment to peace in
Ireland and one part of his speech was particularly striking to me.
He related that peace requires the presence of justice and justice
requires inclusivity,” said Harrington. “What a great lesson, not
just for every city, every nation or every state but for every
community no matter how small that community is. That clearly
applies to us as a university community.”
Adams said the most important elements in any peace process were
dialogue, inclusiveness, and patience. He said early movements
toward peace in Northern Ireland were marginalized and lacked input
from all sides.
“There should be no predetermined outcomes; everybody has a
right to put their agenda points forward,” said Adam, further
proving his point by joking to the assembled crowd. “You can’t say
we’ll talk to that group as long as Father Harrington isn’t in
Adams believes there is much work left to complete in Northern
Ireland, but that many steps had been taken on the long, arduous
road toward peace in his native land.
“Change can be daunting,” he said. “But, I believe we are going
to get there.”
Adams’ stop at St. John's -- the only university on his
four-city schedule – began earlier in the day with an informal
press conference attended by local and international media.
His trip will move onto Washington, D.C. (where he will visit
the White House), Buffalo, N.Y. and end with a St. Patrick’s Day
celebration in Holyoke, Mass. Adams’ travels bring him to the
United States each year to coincide with St. Patrick's Day and to
speak on behalf of political issues that affect his homeland.
Denis P. Kelleher, chairman of the St. John’s Board of Trustees,
helped to secure Adams’ appearance at St. John’s.
Sinn Fein is the largest group in the Republican wing of Irish
nationalism. For the past 22 years, Adams has been president of
Sinn Fein; the third-largest party in Ireland by vote share,
although the entire island only votes together at European
elections. It has recently displaced the previously dominant
nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party in national
elections. Sinn Fein is the only political party to have seats in
the parliaments of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of