SF at World Economic Forum

Liam O'Ruairc loruairc at hotmail.com
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 
weekend’s 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 today’s 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 party’s 
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 House’s 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 town’s 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 Manhattan’s mid-town section. Instead of marching through the 
Bogside this weekend, Adams will spend it mingling with billionaires, 
supermodels, CEO’s, 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 year’s 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 
East.

More than half of those attending are business leaders from the WEF’s 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 America’s 
global war against terrorism.

This year’s guest list reads like a who’s who of the world’s 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 weekend’s 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 weekend’s 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 world’s richest CEO’s will 
collaborate with the world’s most powerful politicians to set the global 
economic agenda".


February 3, 2002
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