SF at World Economic Forum
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Sun Feb 3 09:46:10 MST 2002
Adams pulled out of Bloody Sunday event to attend WEF
(by Ed Moloney, Sunday Tribune)
The Sinn Féin leader and West Belfast MP, Gerry Adams pulled out of this
weekends Bloody Sunday commemorations in Derry so that he could attend the
World Economic Forum in New York, an occasion which allows some of the
richest and most powerful people in the world to rub shoulders for five days
at private seminars and exclusive cocktail parties.
Adams was supposed to be the principal speaker at todays rally in Derry at
the culmination of a weekend of events to remember the day in January 1972
on which British paratroopers fatally shot 14 people. However, about a
fortnight ago he let the organisers know that he would not be going and that
another Sinn Féin figure, Gerry Kelly would speak in his place.
The Bloody Sunday commemorations have taken on a special significance this
year due to the fact that it is the thirtieth anniversary of an event which
had a traumatic impact upon Nationalist opinion in both parts of Ireland,
boosted support for the Provisional IRA and contributed significantly to the
itensity and longevity of the Troubles. Two major television reconstructions
have been broadcast in recent days, both of which have been acclaimed, and
the anniversary has attracted considerable international coverage.
It is understood that Adams did not tell the Bloody Sunday organisers that
he planned to go to the World Economic Forum instead of their rally and they
first found out when they read about it in the newspapers. News that the
Sinn Féin president would be attending the five day conference in New York
has only emerged in recent days in evidence, perhaps, of the partys
embarrassment at his presence at an event decried by other radical leaders
around the world.
Adams is due to attend and speak at two WEF events this weekend. Yesterday,
he took part in a workshop on conflict resolution with former US President
Bill Clinton and South African Bishop, Desmond Tutu and today he will be on
the platform at a forum on Northern Ireland attended by the Ulster Unionist
leader, David Trimble, SDLP leader Mark Durkan, PUP leader, David Ervine and
the White Houses point man on Northern matters, Ambassador Richard Haass.
The World Economic Forum usually meets in the exclusive Swiss Alpine ski
resort of Davos but because of fears by the towns affluent residents that
it might be a terrorist target this year and in an effort to show solidarity
with the United States after the September 11th attacks, the organisers
decided to move it to New York.
The conference is taking place at the luxurious Waldorf-Astoria hotel on
Park Avenue in Manhattans mid-town section. Instead of marching through the
Bogside this weekend, Adams will spend it mingling with billionaires,
supermodels, CEOs, politicians, kings, princes, bankers, academics and the
stars of stage and screen from around the world, some 3,000 in all from 100
countries. He is the only one of this years delegates to trail a whiff of
gun-smoke behind him. Yasser Arafat, a regulat attendee since the PLO
eschewed violence, has been barred because of the trouble in the Middle
More than half of those attending are business leaders from the WEFs 1,000
corporate members. They each pay an annual fee of $25,000 to join the WEF
and a further $6,000 to attend the conference, a price which many regard as
cheap given the access which it provides to key decision-makers. Three
hundred delegates are politicians, 30 are heads of state and the remainder
are those, like entertainers and models, who find such events an
irresistable opportunity to parade themselves and their views in public.
The theme of the conference is "Leadership in Fragile Times: a Vision for a
Shared Future", a formulation which by common consent is code language for
concern at the weakening world economies and the implications of Americas
global war against terrorism.
This years guest list reads like a whos who of the worlds rich and
powerful. It includes King Abdullah of Jordan, Kofi Annan, secretary-general
of the UN, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Colin Powell, US Secretary of State,
Gerhard Schroeder, chancellor of Germany, James Wolfensohn, president of the
World Bank, Horst Kohler, MD of the IMF and a host of business leaders. One
of the more prominent of these is George Soros, the controversial currency
trader who has had Gerry Adams as his dinner guest in the past.
Competition for the weekends social events is said to be intense. The
English pop singer Elton John, for instance, is giving an exclusive concert
for guests of the New York brokerage firm, Lehman Brothers and is being paid
$1 million for his services. But only 200 of the 3000 delegates have been
invited. Lehman will not say whether Adams is on this list.
Adams decision to spend time in this company rather than with the grieving
people of Derry will doubtless surprise and disappoint many of those in Sinn
Féin who still believe its claim to be a left-wing and radical party which
supports the cause of the third world. Adams trip to Cuba at the end of
last year, as with the arrests of Republicans in Colombia, re-inforced that
image while this weekends trip paints the picture of politician who cares
less about ideology and more about repairing broken fences with powerful
figures in corporate and political America.
His decision to identify with the World Economic Forum contrasts sharply
with the so far peaceful protests against the conference which have been
held in New York. One body, Students for Global Justice, described the
conference in language which not so long ago would have been used by Sinn
Féin. "At the New York WEF summit", it said, "the worlds richest CEOs will
collaborate with the worlds most powerful politicians to set the global
February 3, 2002
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