Thursday, March 15, 2001

Sinn Fein official raises funds for IRA political arm

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Ray Hebert, who teaches Irish history at Thomas More College, credited the World Peace Bell with Wednesday's visit by Northern Ireland education minister and Sinn Fein party chief negotiator Martin McGuinness.

        “It's the bell,” Mr. Hebert said. “He's here because of the significance of the Peace Bell. He's a real player in the peace movement in Ireland, (so) that his appearance here is really important.”

[photo] Martin McGuinness (center), Northern Ireland education minister and Sinn Fein chief negotiator, applauds after ringing the World Peace Bell in Newport on Wednesday evening.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        Mr. McGuinness rang the 66,000-pound World Peace Bell on Wednesday and then attended a $100-a-person dinner at Jack Quinn's Irish Ale House in Covington to raise money for Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army.

        “I'm amazed by the size of the bell,” Mr. McGuinness said, “and I am so pleased that so many came here today for this celebration of peace.

        “The bell is such a new concept, a new idea to promote peace.”

        Tonya Rawe, 23, of Clifton, and Kate Romanello, 22, of Fairfield, said they came to the bell to see Mr. McGuinness because both had studied Irish history at Xavier University and maintained a strong interest in Ireland and its politics.

        “I try to keep up with the peace process and everything that goes on in Northern Ireland,” said Ms. Rawe, who visited Ireland three years ago. “This was a great opportunity, to see and meet one of the people primarily responsible for the peace in Northern Ireland now.”

        Michael McGuire of Louisville, Kentucky vice president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, said he thought the $100 donation for the dinner “is money well spent. I think everyone in this room feels that way, or they wouldn't be here. This is money that will be spent to promote peace and a united Ireland.”

        About 50 people paid to break bread with Mr. McGuinness, who leaves here today to attend similar fund-raising events in New York, Boston and Toronto before he returns to Northern Ireland.

        Kentucky Hibernians President Dan Fitzgerald, who also traveled to Northern Kentucky from Louisville, pointed out that “we don't see this kind of visitor. We're here to show our support for someday achieving a united Ireland and a lasting peace.”

        Mr. McGuinness, who was welcomed to the Commonwealth by Lt. Gov. Steve Henry and State Rep. Jim Callahan, D-Wilder, who made him a Kentucky Colonel, credited former President Clinton, who visited Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1995, with helping move the peace process ahead in Ireland.

        “If we didn't have the input from President Clinton and the support of the people of the United States, we would not have been able to broker the Good Friday peace agreement,” he said.

        Mr. McGuire, who also attended the Peace Bell ceremony, said he was impressed “with the patience that comes from (Mr. McGuinness) when he speaks. During the peace negotiations, the British continued to put up hurdles, but he was able to get over them and keep talking peace. He continues to talk peace.”

        As education minister of Northern Ireland, Mr. McGuinness has emphasized the need of a solid education for all Irish children, and integration of Catholic and Protestant children in the same schools.

        “That's tremendously important in Ireland,” said Mr. Hebert, who said he has visited Northern Ireland several times, including a trip to Londonderry last year. “Integration in education will do more than almost anything else in bring about a lasting peace in Ireland.”

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