11 November 2005

Adams gets round US ban with live link-up speech

Belfast Telegraph

By Sean O'Driscoll
11 November 2005

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams spoke by live satellite link to the annual Friends of Sinn Fein dinner in New York last night to circumvent a US fund-raising ban.

Adams told the guests, who paid $$500 a plate to attend, that Friends of Sinn Fein had sold more tickets for the event than ever before because of the publicity surrounding the fund-raising ban.

"I'd like to thank those in the US administration who made this possible," he joked to cheers from more than 700 guests.

"I'm disappointed not to meet with old friends, meet new friends and make a report on the process of progress since last we met," he said.

His speech was broadcast on two giant screens on either side of a ballroom in the New York Sheraton Hotel near Times Square.

A team of technicians worked to carry the signal, while Friends of Sinn Fein officials stood beside them, working out logistics with technical staff in Ireland.

Mr Adams said that Sinn Fein's refusal to sit on the policing board was the reason given by the US government for refusing the fund-raising visa.

"It appears to have been at the root of the disappointing decision by the US administration to refuse me a fund-raising visa. Nationalists and republicans want to be policed, we are a law-abiding people," he said.

Earlier, labourers' union boss, Terry Sullivan, made a fiery speech attacking the US government's decision not to give Adams a fund-raising visa.

His words were strongly supported by Bronx Congressman, Charles Engel, described the fund-raising ban as an "absolute disgrace".

"At the very time when Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams are taking all kinds of risk for peace, it's absolutely the wrong time to slap them in the face," he said.

Former Ardoyne resident, Jim Smith, a long time New York Sinn Fein supporter, said he challenged the US envoy to Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss, about the fund-raising ban at an event on Tuesday night.

He said Reiss told him the ban was put in place because Sinn Fein would not take seats on the policing board.

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