September 25, 1994
GLASTONBURY, Conn. (AP) -- Tears spring to Billy Kelly's eyes when he talks about his compatriots who have died fighting for the Irish Republican Army.
Kelly, who said he was imprisoned for his IRA activities in the early 1970s, has watched the violence in Northern Ireland from a distance for years since moving from his native County Kerry, Ireland.
On Sunday, he was one of hundreds of people who attended a rally with Gerry Adams -- president of the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein -- and heard how peace is closer than ever.
"This is the greatest opportunity we'll ever have,"
said Kelly, of Springfield, Mass.
"And with the help of God, we'll see it through. It's very emotional. A lot of people have died,"
he said, wiping his eyes with a handkerchief.
Adams is on a two-week tour to rally support for a peace settlement in Northern Ireland. He arrived Saturday.
Adams attended a private breakfast with members of Connecticut's congressional delegation. But his visit to the Irish-American Home Society in Glastonbury was geared to what Adams called "the grassroots of Irish America."
"It's the complete spectrum, from the very, very powerful, to you people here," he said, speaking after an open-air [Roman] Catholic Mass on a football field outside the Society.
"And if you ask me why the British don't want Sinn Fein people to come and speak, it's because they fear your power. They're not afraid of me. They fear your power. They fear your influence," Adams said.
As Adams walked through the crowd of about 600 people he greeted nearly everyone who approached him, giving hugs, handshakes, smiles and autographs and posing for family photographs.
People dressed in their Sunday best were waving Irish flags in what many called a historic moment.
"It's a wonderful day," said Mary Alice Dwyer, who had Adams sign two Irish flags for her family. "It's such an honor. The man has worked so hard."
Adams also is scheduled to visit Washington, New York, San Francisco, Detroit, Hartford, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
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