Northern Ireland news

Unionists hit out at New York's 'Gerry Adams Day'

Gerry Adams receiving the proclamation from New York City mayor Bill de Blasio

A PROCLAMATION by the mayor of New York naming March 17 as Gerry Adams Day has been condemned as "disgusting" and "offensive" by unionists.

Bill De Blasio made the announcement during the annual St Patrick’s Day breakfast event at his residence. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also attended the breakfast.

"I, Bill de Blasio, mayor of the city of New York, do hereby proclaim March 17 2018 in the city of New York as 'Gerry Adams Day'," the proclamation read.

Austin Stack, whose father Brian was killed by the IRA in 1983, said he has already sent a letter highlighting his concerns.

Christopher Stalford, DUP MLA for south Belfast, questioned the taoiseach's attendance and reaction to the proclamation.

"The mayor of New York presents Mr Adams with a certificate naming this day Gerry Adams Day in the city and Mr Varadkar stands on the platform and applauded. And people wonder why unionists distrust American involvement in Northern Ireland and view Mr Varadkar as hostile?" he said.

UUP MLA Steve Aiken described the proclamation as a "kick in the teeth for the victims of terrorism".

"Bill de Blasio has already heard from and will continue to hear from the victims of IRA terrorists and their families," he said.

"I hope that he will show some humility and common decency and take up the opportunity to meet with the victims` families such as Austin Stack."

Mr de Blasio said Mr Adams was an "activist" who "fought against injustice".

"He understood there’s no place in the world any more for colonialism and he fought against that with all that he had," he added.

"Remember that great ideas never die, they may be set back sometimes, but they never die. And I honour Gerry Adams for his lifelong pursuit of a goal that makes that makes so much sense, the goal of a united Ireland.

"Gerry has in all he has done, accepted that a life of fighting for change came with peril, came with the threat of violence and the experience of being attacked. It came with condemnation, it came with arrest and times in jail."

Mr Adams said he was honoured to receive this proclamation.

"I have to say that happy Gerry Adams Day doesn’t have the same ring as happy St Patrick’s Day," he said.

"I would often reflect to myself: If you can all live here (in NYC) in relative harmony, if you can all live here together, surely in our small island we can create the conditions where our people can live in harmony and prosperity and peace and equality together?"

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