Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Activist heads to N.Ky.

Irish negotiator will ring World Peace Bell

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Martin McGuinness was on his cell phone Tuesday from London, a city where he once was forbidden to set foot under Great Britain's Prevention of Terrorism Act.

        You might expect some hostility in London toward the Northern Ireland native and chief negotiator for the Sinn Fein party, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army. But he was laughing and at ease.

[photo] Aidan Bowles (above) co-owns Jack Quinn's Irish Ale House, which today will welcome a visit by Irish activist Martin McGuinness.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        “I've walked through these streets many times, and no one has ever said a harsh word to me,” he said Tuesday as he prepared to fly to Northern Kentucky, where he will ring the World Peace Bell today. “I think it shows how far we've all come in the peace process in Northern Ireland.”

        Mr. McGuinness, 50, is a native of Londonderry and has been a member of Sinn Fein since 1970.

        He is also the education minister for Northern Ireland and an elected member of Parliament, although he and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams refuse to take their seats because they won't swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.

        His visit here is the first of four stops in the United States and Canada, followed by trips to New York, Boston and Toronto. He'll raise money for Sinn Fein with benefit dinners such as the $100-per-person event tonight at Jack Quinn's Irish Ale House in Covington.

        “We think the opportunity to ring the World Peace Bell is a great honor and important to all people who hunger after justice and peace,” Mr. McGuinness said. “I had heard about the Peace Bell in 1999, and I'm looking forward to seeing it.”

    • What: Celebration of Lasting Peace In Ireland.
    • Where: World Peace Bell, Fifth and York streets, Newport.
    • When: 5:30 p.m., followed by $100-per-person dinner at Jack Quinn's Irish Ale House in Covington starting at 7 p.m., followed by $25-per-person reception, starting at 8:30 p.m.
    • Who: Martin McGuinness, education minister for Northern Ireland and chief negotiator for Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA.
    • Background: Mr. McGuinness, a native of Northern Ireland, dropped out of school at 15. He joined Sinn Fein and the IRA in 1970. He was named minister of education for Northern Ireland and was elected to British Parliament last year. He was one of the leaders in the negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 peace accord that now governs Northern Ireland. He is 50 years old, married and the father of four children.

        Jim Kennedy, a retired teacher from Mount Washington and president of the Fenian Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, called Mr. McGuinness' visit “an historic occasion.”

        “For someone of his stature, a member of Parliament and minister of education in Northern Ireland, to come to our area is a real coup,” he said. “He has proven he's a man of peace, and I think it's great that he will be at the Peace Bell.”

        Dozens of people have rung the Peace Bell. Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton, in Newport on New Year's Eve 2000 and at the bell's commissioning New Orleans was the first.

        Young people on two occasions for peace in schools — last March and again last week.

        The International president of Rotary has rung the bell, and Mr. McGuinness' countrywoman, Mairead Corrigan McGuire, Nobel Peace Prize winner and co-found er of Northern Ireland Peace Movement, has rung it. Religious leaders from all denominations have rung the bell at year-end peace celebrations. Mr. Kennedy, who will welcome Mr. McGuinness at the Jack Quinn's dinner, said he feels the Irish-American community in Greater Cincinnati will welcome the one-time IRA activist and commander of the group known as the Provisionals in Londonderry.

        “I haven't heard from anyone who has a problem with (McGuinness) coming here,” he said. “We think this will be a very positive and up-beat occasion. We hope he comes back.”

        The money raised at the dinner and the $25 per person reception that follows, as well as funds raised in the other three cities, will go to Sinn Fein. Mr. McGuinness' trip is sponsored by Friends of Sinn Fein in Washington, D.C., a group registered with the U.S. Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

        Aidan Bowles, co-owner of Jack Quinn's and a native of Cork in the Irish Republic, said he plans to be at the dinner and reception because “he's an extremely significant character and is driving for the peace process in Northern Ireland.”

        “Some people, especially in Ireland, see McGuinness along the same lines as Nelson Mandela,” Mr. Bowles said. “Both were at one time the leaders opposing the powers, and then both became part of the powers.”

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