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Hibernia: Gerry Adams Honored at UMass

Gerry Adams receives his honorary degree from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

By Irish America Staff
August / September 2000

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was invited to give the commencement address, and was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Massachusetts –Lowell, in May. Adams told the 1,700 graduates and roughly 6,500 people in attendance that “One person in this class of 2000 can make a difference for humanity, for his country, for the world.”

Adams was invited to speak by University president Billy Bulger, a controversial figure in his own right. For more than three decades he was a feisty and fiery politician in the Massachusetts State Senate. He is also the brother of infamous South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger.

“It has never been easy to be an Irish Republican,” President Bulger told the crowd, before going on to recall that Adams’s cousin and nephew were victims of sectarian killings, while Adams’s brother-in-law died in combat, and that Adams himself was shot by Loyalists in 1984.

“An elaborate propaganda machine worked overtime to blacken (Adams’s) reputation,” added Bulger. “Although there are those who would work to deny him proper credit, Gerry Adams is a prime architect of the Northern peace process.”

And while some criticized the Adams invite, students seemed to appreciate the speech. Graduate Brandon Holly admitted he was “kind of surprised” at Adams’ selection, but after hearing the speech, told the Lowell Sun he sees Adams as “an advocate for positive change.” ♦

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