The Government is "drowning in the uprising" over water charges, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams told American donors at a fundraiser in New York City last night hosted by Friends of Sinn Féin, its US wing.
In a combative speech to several hundred supporters at the $500-a-ticket (€400) dinner, Mr Adams rounded on his and the party’s critics, from the Taoiseach to the British government to the media.
“There is a row going on at the moment over the issue of water and the Government is drowning in the uprising that is taking place,” he said to a shout of “we’re not paying it” from a member of the audience at the Sheraton Hotel on Times Square.
Mr Adams accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Joan Burton and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin of spreading "scurrilous allegations" against him and Sinn Féin in an effort to undermine the party's rising popularity and electoral chances in 2016.
He didn’t refer specifically to the allegations of IRA rape and interrogation or to the case of alleged rape victim Mairia Cahill.
Noting Sinn Féin’s rise in the polls to become the largest opposition party, he said: “It isn’t a surprise that our political opponents are determined to stop us, determined to attack us, to undermine us.”
He accused the party leaders of being prepared “to employ any dirty trick, any slander, any lie, any insinuation, any insult or any hopeless accusation against us” to stem the growth of Sinn Féin.
The Taoiseach was singled out for criticism as Mr Adams said he failed to appreciate that peace in Ireland is bigger than party politics.
“I sit across the chamber in the Dáil with him every single week – I don’t think he understands the peace process,” he said. “I don’t think he gets it. I don’t think he understands the North.”
Some 650 tickets were sold for the event, which, it is estimated, will raise $350,000 (€283,000) for Friends of Sinn Féin, adding to more than $10 million (€8m) raised by the group in the US since it was founded in 1995.
Donegal Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty spoke for several minutes before his party leader took the podium next to Irish and American flags and in front of a “Unite Ireland” banner.
Among the attendees were New York hotelier John Fitzpartrick; Pat Donaghy, founder of construction company Structure Tone and staff from New Jersey scaffolding company Safway Atlantic, where former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive David Drumm works as a consultant.
Donors enjoyed filet mignon and bottles of “Magnolia Grove” Californian cabernet sauvignon wine accompanied by traditional Irish songs such as Danny Boy and Song For Ireland played by a group.
Among the critics lashed by Mr Adams were the Independent group of newspapers, which he accused of largely leading the “campaign of slander” against him and the party.
He told the audience that this wasn’t new as the newspapers had “opposed our efforts at peace-building 20 years ago and continues to attack us today”.
Going back almost a century, he referred to the Irish Independent's call for the leaders of the 1916 Rising to be executed and the newspaper's condemnation of Michael Collins in the "Tan War".
He said the “Government establishment” condemned IRA volunteers such as Bobby Sands and Mairead Farrell, yet portrayed Collins “as a sort of Gandhi type figure”.
He noted how Collins responded to the Irish Independent's criticism by sending volunteers into the the newspaper's office, holding the editor at gunpoint and destroying the entire printing press.
"I can't wait to see the headline in the Independent tomorrow," Mr Adams said to laughter from last night's audience. "I am obviously not advocating that," he added, to more laughs.
“I am just pointing out the hypocrisy of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and the Fianna Fáil leader.”
He invited the audience to visit Ireland for the 100th anniversary of the Rising, which he said, was funded by Irish America.
“There is also a possibility that if enough of youse come home that we can have another Rising,” he said, to the biggest cheers of the night.
He noted that the Government had not yet announced any plans for the anniversary.
“The reason why they haven’t announced any plans is because they don’t have any plans and they will cobble something together,” he said.
Mr Adams was ushered out of the ballroom by two minders at the end of the dinner, rebuffing questions from reporters as he left.