By Ray O’Hanlon
Sinn FTin biggest crowd pullers are set to straddle North America over the St. Patrick’s Day period with stopovers from Boston to Seattle.
The visits to close to 20 cities by the party’s leadership will amount to the largest Sinn FTin fund-raising mission since the Irish government passed legislation restricting Ireland-bound political donations in the U.S. and other countries to Irish citizens.
Party president Gerry Adams is leading off the Sinn FTin blitz on March 9 with a speech to supporters in Scranton, Pa. The next evening, Adams will be in Philadelphia to preside at a $1,000-a-plate dinner.
The following day, Adams will speak to Catholic clergy and faithful at St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Ky. The theme of the Adams speech will be peace, reconciliation and the role of religion in Northern Ireland.
The cathedral, which was constructed between 1894 and 1910, is situated just across the state line from Cincinnati and features the largest hand-blown stain glass window in the world, the work of a Belfast native, Helen Mclean.
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Adams will travel to Baltimore on the 12th and from there to Washington, D.C., for a number of events on the 13th. While in D.C., Adams will attend a fund-raising breakfast at Bobby Van’s restaurant.
Following Washington, D.C., Adams will travel to Washington State, where he will attend a function in Seattle on the 14th.
He will be in San Francisco for the following two days and will depart for Ireland on the 16th.
Sinn FTin’s chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, will be arriving in Cleveland on the 14th. He will then concentrate on Chicago, spending the 15th, 16th and St. Patrick’s Day in the Windy City.
McGuinness’s fellow North minister, Bairbre de Br_n, will arrive in New York on the 14th and then travel to Canada for visits over three days to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Various events are being organized for de Br_n in these cities by the recently formed Canadian Friends of Sinn FTin.
Sinn FTin vice president and MP Pat Doherty will be, like Adams, in the U.S. capital on the 13th. He will be in Syracuse, N.Y., on the 14th, Detroit on the 15th and in New York for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the 16th. Later on the 16th he will attend an event in Stamford, Conn.
Doherty will spend St. Patrick’s Day itself attending the Pearl River Parade in Rockland County, the grand marshal for which is deportee Brian Pearson.
Gerry Kelly, the party’s assembly member for North Belfast, will be traveling to Boston where he will stay between the 14th and 17th.
All the visiting leaders are from the North and all the money collected during the North American stopovers will be transferred to the party’s coffers in the North while the ramifications of the new legislation in the Republic are assessed by Friends of Sinn FTin.
Friends of Sinn FTin president Larry Downes said that the amount of money being raised during the St. Patrick’s period was not likely to be particularly great given that much of the emphasis during the various visits would be focused on meeting supporters and making new contacts.
He did, however, expect the gross total raised to reach six figures.
Friends of Sinn FTin has raised over $5 million in the U.S. since 1995 although more than $525,000 raised at the group’s annual fund-raising dinner in New York last fall went straight to a construction industry 9/11 disaster relief fund.
The gross figure raised and put at Sinn FTin’s disposal once that figure is subtracted runs to a little over $4.6 million.