By Dave Riley
BRISBANE — According to Brisbane's Courier-Mail, when Gerry Adams entered the civic reception organised in his honour by Mayor Jim Soorley his "welcome was more befitting a rock star than a politician at City Hall, with the crowd whistling, stamping, clapping and chanting 'Gerry' as he took the stage".
The Sinn Féin president was greeted by more than 1200 people at Brisbane City Hall on February 23. Two hours later another 500 listened attentively as he spoke to the Queensland Irish Association. Brisbane was the second city on Adams' four-city tour of Australia.
On February 22, he addressed almost 1000 people at a literary luncheon sponsored by the Sydney Morning Herald, which was the biggest ever seen in that city. Introducing himself as a "native aboriginal person from Belfast", Adams has told journalists and audiences that he came to Australia to seek support for Sinn Féin's peace strategy and for "Ireland's quest for unity and independence, and a democratic peace settlement".
Speaking to his Sydney audience, he said: "We have a chance to take our history by the throat and shape it and turn it around ... The people of Ireland deserve peace, deserve justice, deserve freedom, deserve the right to live together in peace and harmony.
"We have a chance to build a new relationship between the people of Ireland and the people of Britain. We have a chance to make violence a thing of the past."
Adams is accompanied by Ard Comhairle member Dodie McGuinness and by Anne O'Sullivan, who is taking up the post within Sinn Féin of coordinating and improving the party's profile in Australia.
The Sinn Féin delegation has attended around a dozen events each day of the tour. It has met Aboriginal representatives, including Lowitja O'Donoghue and Mick Dodson, and on February 27 Adams delivered that Wallace Wurth Memorial Lecture to a packed auditorium at the University of NSW.
Later this week, Adams will meet Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett and the president of the ACTU, Jennie George. O'Sullivan said: "The response to the visit has been astonishing. Irish Australians, who make up 30% of the population, are clearly very interested and many want to help."