Several hundred people gathered at various locations in Ireland and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams handed in a letter of protest to officials at Stormont, accompanied by about 30 protestors.
In New York, only about 70 people gathered on Third Avenue opposite the offices of the British Consulate and speakers from Friends of Sinn Fein, Clan na Gael and the Brehon Law Society and others addressed listeners.
Ancient Order of Hibernians national president Ned McGinley said that recent events in Northern Ireland, such as the revelations about the “supposed traitors in the IRA,” were designed “to make us lose our focus.”
The British government, he added, has “broken laws that they have themselves made. They are in fact the instigators of violence in the North.”
Prime Minister Tony Blair had said that elections held under the current deadlocked peace process would lead to a deadlocked assembly, unable to function.
Retired Brigadier Gen. James P. Cullen, a member of the Brehon Law Society, tackled what is seen as Blair’s hypocrisy. He praised the British for fighting with the U.S. in Iraq, saying “they deserve credit for trying to restore democracy in Iraq, a very worthy operation,” but added, “at the same time, take a look at Northern Ireland.”
Gerry Coleman of Irish Northern Aid held up a petition printed off the internet, which he said contained more than 3,600 signatures. He told the crowd that “the people of the world are with us.”
Acknowledging the role the online petition played in spreading word of the protest, one of the organizers, Richard Butler of Irish Northern Aid, noted: “The internet is a powerful tool, and we’re only just learning how to use it.”
Some posters and placards carried by protestors echoed the topic of Iraq.
“Democracy for Iraq and the six counties,” read one. Another stated: “IRA ends bullets, Blair ends ballots.”
Butler said to the crowd, as he introduced the first speaker: “To us in this country the idea of being denied a vote is hideous.”
Gerry Adams in Belfast also made reference to Iraq in his speech outside Stormont.
“The prime minister is in Iraq today under what pretext? To bring about democracy,” Adams said, referring to Blair’s visit with British troops in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. “So he wants democracy in Baghdad, but not in Belfast. There is more than a little irony in that.”
The SDLP also staged protests against the postponement of elections and held a mock ballot in Belfast.