Niall O'Dowd: Irish-Americans still bank on Sinn Fein leader

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The Independent Online

During every Saint Patrick's period, the US media is galvanised to report on the Irish story of the week. The rest of the year, frankly they could care less. After all, Michael Jackson's pyjamas are much more compelling.

During every Saint Patrick's period, the US media is galvanised to report on the Irish story of the week. The rest of the year, frankly they could care less. After all, Michael Jackson's pyjamas are much more compelling.

This year it is no contest for the sultans of soundbite who run the media. The story of the McCartney sisters bears all the hallmarks of what they are seeking. There are brave women, bad terrorists and a story line that reaches all the way from Belfast to the White House. Hey, even Jo Schmo in Kansas can figure it out.

The McCartney women are in and Gerry Adams is out, out of the White House, out of Ted Kennedy's office and if we are to believe the reports, also out with many ordinary Irish-Americans, except nobody has really bothered to ask them.

Little matter that the media caravan will trundle out of town the second Saint Patrick's Day is over. For now, it is McCartneys all the time. The women have excellent media presence, have suffered a grievous wrong and their story deserves to be told.

Yet by Friday morning, the McCartneys will be very old news. The attention-deficit disorder that inflicts about 95 per cent of the American media will become evident. If it's Friday it must be Martha Stewart, or Michael Jackson or those midget twins on the flying trapeze. Where's the next grist for our mill?

Activist Irish-Americans believe they see through this. They know that the McCartney story is important but the fate of the peace process is far more so in the long run. They believe that the same, maligned Gerry Adams is the only one capable of putting it back on track.

To do so, Adams must get the Irish Republican Army to disband. That is the message that the Sinn Fein leader has received this week from almost every leading Irish-American. There is no other way and Sinn Fein cannot continue to straddle both horses.

The condemnations of Adams and the IRA have been filling the airwaves here, especially in the context of the McCartney sisters. If condemnations could bring peace there would have been no Troubles to begin with. Equally if the acts of two or more drunken psychopaths in a Belfast bar brings down the peace process it is an incredible tragedy.

It is a gargantuan task for Adams to get the IRA to see the only realistic future but it is not beyond him. He and Martin McGuinness pulled off the IRA ceasefire in 1994, which was a remarkable act, and they have continued to advance the process, often in an agonisingly slow manner for the past decade or so. Now Sinn Fein hase lost the initiative and needs to win it back if the process is to be saved. After numerous meetings this week, Irish-Americans are more convinced than ever that Gerry Adams can bring this about. That is the real story this Saint Patrick's Day. Not very sexy for news headlines; those boring old Irish Troubles rarely are.

Niall O'Dowd is the publisher of 'The Irish Voice' in New York

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