By Ray O’Hanlon
It will be like St. Patrick’s Day in February.
What promises to be the most significant concentration of political expounding on the Northern Ireland peace process in some time is set for New York next week as delegates gather in the city for the annual World Economic Forum.
The WEF usually takes place in the Swiss city of Davos but was moved this year to New York as a mark of respect, and indeed defiance, following the Sept. 11 attack on America
While primarily a meeting of corporate chief executives from around the world, this year’s forum, which runs from Thursday Jan. 31, to Monday, Feb. 4, will include a special panel discussion on Northern Ireland, to be held on Sunday, Feb. 3, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, where the WEF is taking place.
Lined up for the session on the peace process are North party leaders Gerry Adams, David Trimble, David Irvine of the Progressive Unionist Party and Mark Durkan, who recently took over from John Hume as leader of the SDLP.
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Irish foreign minister Brian Cowen is also a possible participant, while Dr. Richard Haass, the Bush administration’s point man on the North, will definitely attend.
Britain’s Northern Ireland secretary, Dr. John Reid, was a possible WEF participant at one point but will not be attending.
A British government spokeswoman said that the feeling was that Reid did not want to distract attention from the North party leaders, all of them leading figures in the North’s still evolving devolved government.
Dr. Reaid, will, however, travel to Washington for talks with the Bush administration on Feb. 11
Sinn FTin’s Gerry Adams will arrive in the U.S. on Thursday, Jan. 31, and will immediately cross the Hudson River to New Jersey, where he will be guest of honor that evening at a Friends of Sinn FTin fund-raiser in Montvale.
Sinn FTin’s deputy leader and chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, will follow Adams to the U.S. a few days after the WEF concludes.
McGuinness will attend a FOSF fund-raiser in Port Washington, N.Y., on Wednesday, Feb. 6, and the following evening will be the special speaker at a roundtable discussion on Bloody Sunday hosted by New York University’s Ireland House.
Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist Party leader and North first minister, David Trimble, and the SDLP’s Durkan are expected to travel to Washington, D.C., after the World Economic Forum for talks with Bush administration officials and members of Congress.