Toronto Gets its Irish Up

(from The Toronto Observer, November 10, 2009)

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams swung through Toronto recently, urging Canada 's Irish

diaspora to continue working for the dream of a united Ireland .

The auditorium at the Ontario Institute For Studies in Education (OISE) in Toronto

was filled with Irish nationalism on Saturday.

Posters with photos of men and women such as Michael Collins, an Irish

revolutionary leader and Bobby Sands, a hunger striker who was elected into the

British government in the 1980s, were spread, among other Irish nationalists, along

the stage.

At the podium in the middle of the stage, with a large white banner across the

front stood, a bearded man with glasses and a thick Northern Irish accent.

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein (, Ireland ’s political party

devoted to reunifying the north and south, calmly addressed the hundreds in

attendance with a proclamation:

“Irish freedom and an end to British rule in Ireland has been the goal of

generations of Irish people… I believe this generation can make it real,” he said.

Adams was speaking at the public forum sponsored by Friends of Sinn Fein Canada

entitled: “A United Ireland: How do we get there?”

Alongside Adams, prominent speakers at the forum included former Solicitor General

for Canada Warren Allmand , former Attorney General and minister of justice of

Saskatchewan Chris Axworthy , Member of Parliament Charlie Angus and Manon Perron ,

secretary/treasurer of the Montreal executive of the Confederation of National

Trade Unions.

But it was Adams who brought out the crowd and encouraged them to support Sinn

Fein’s cause.

“For Sinn Fein, we’re not just about changing flags,” Adams said. “We want a real

republic, a national democratic republic. It isn’t a matter of if we get a united

Ireland … It’s a matter of when we get a united Ireland and how we get a united

Ireland .

“So this conference should be about what you can do and what you can get others to

do about re-uniting the people of our country.”

Adams said although the peace process and the overall state of things in Northern

Ireland have improved since ‘the Troubles’, there remains work to be done.

“There are still rigid differences, attitudes, opinions, separate interests,

bigotry and particularly sectarianism that have to be overcome,” he said.

Adams spoke of times when his involvement with a political party devoted to

achieving Irish unity prevented him from travelling to certain places.

“Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have been allowed and wasn’t allowed to come to

Canada ,” he said. “But that has changed. It’s changed because people like you have

made it an issue.”

Adams said that Toronto is home to a large population of people who have supported

and continue to support Irish unification and that continued support in Canada is


“I find the people here are clued into what’s happening,” he said. “It will require

thoughtful strategies, huge outreach to our unionist brothers and sisters and a

patient process of nation building to unite orange and green, but it can be done

and we can do it together.”

For the roomful of supporters who turned up to promote Irish unity, Adams ended

with the idea that their efforts count, no matter how big or small, and their goal

is in sight.

“This is an important moment here in Toronto ,” he said. “It’s all of us together

to make this happen. This is not just a conference here. This is a winning phase of

our struggle and you people here can make a huge difference because our team is

Ireland and we can win

“Whether you’re going off and doing your own thing in your own way, you’re on the

winning team,” he said. “You have to have it in your head as we leave this hall

today that we can win. Let’s go out and play the best game we can play across

Canada .”