US State Department refuses to be drawn on Adams criticism

SF leader’s meeting with deputy secretary of state sidelined due to welfare reform talks

The US State Department declined to respond to criticism by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams that its decision to cancel his meeting with a high-ranking diplomat was "bizarre".

The department postponed a meeting between Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and deputy secretary of state Tony Blinken because of the ongoing negotiations on welfare reform in Northern Ireland.

Mr Adams was due to meet Mr Blinken during his St Patrick's Day visit to the US this week but the meeting was cancelled by the State Department.

The Sinn Féin leader described the department’s handling of the meeting as “bizarre” and “not helpful”. He added that its approach was “at odds” with long-term US policy towards Northern Ireland “built on inclusivity and dialogue.”

READ MORE

Mr Adams met another, lower-ranking State Department official this week.

Departmental spokeswoman Jen Psaki would not be drawn on his criticism. "I don't have any comments on his comments," she said.

‘Durable accord’

Mr Adams's meeting with Mr Blinken was postponed followed the decision of Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness – who were due to meet Mr Blinken separately from Mr Adams – to cancel their US St Patrick's Day trip to focus on welfare reform talks.

"Given the ongoing efforts to reach a durable accord on welfare reforms to get implementation of the Stormont House Agreement back on track we postponed all of deputy secretary Blinken's meetings with Northern Ireland officials until such agreement is reached," said Ms Psaki.

Mr Blinken, a former deputy national security adviser to Mr Obama, was among the US officials to attend the meeting between the president and Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Oval Office on St Patrick’s Day.

“It was the decision made by the department that given the negotiations were ongoing and that needed to be the focus that the meetings should be postponed at the deputy secretary level,” said Ms Psaki.

Mr Adams instead met US deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasia Affairs Julieta Noyes on Tuesday. She also separately met SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt at the State Department.

“So we did have a senior official meet with a range of officials,” said Ms Psaki.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent