US administration in a dilemma over new visa for Adams

 

THE issue of a new US visa for Mr Gerry Adams has presented the administration with a dilemma, with the prospect of domestic criticism on several fronts if Mr Adams is readmitted to the country in March.

The resumption of the IRA campaign has also presented Sinn Fein with a serious dilemma how to maintain its favoured status in the US with the administration and Irish Americans at a time when the IRA is killing people in London.

Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who supported the original visa for Mr Adams in January 1994, eight months before the IRA ceasefire, said yesterday: "It's the President's call but I don't think we should let him (Mr Adams) back in."

The White House is resisting pressure to make a hasty decision tori Mr Adams's request for a new visa. It is waiting to see if the British and Irish governments can get the peace process back on track at the summit meeting next week.

The administration is coming under very strong pressure, however, to ban further fund raising by Mr Adams, who had hoped to praise money for Sinn Fein at a New York event in March. This is now in doubt. The head of Friends of Sinn Fein, Mr Larry Downes, said yesterday in New York that no fund raising events were planned at present.

Mr Downes said of the $1.3 million raised by Friends of Sinn Fein since March 1994, $528,000 had been transferred to Ireland before October 31st, and a further $14,000 on November 1st or 2nd.

While much of the criticism of President Clinton over his relationship with Mr Adams has come from predictable conservative Republican sources, Mr Moynihan yesterday broke ranks with leading Democrats who have supported the White House policy, to say the Sinn Fein leader should not be allowed back.

The New York senator told the New York Daily News: "We can talk to him. We can talk to him any time we want to. But why do we have him marching in parade next month on St Patrick's Day?"

The outspoken Mr Moynihan was always a reluctant recruit to Senator Edward Kennedy's campaign to allow Mr Adams to visit New York in January 1994. When the IRA mortar bombed Heathrow Airport in March 1994, he sent him a four word letter asking: "Have we been had?"

Mr Moynihan derided the idea that Mr Adams was unaware of who was responsible for the IRA campaign. "We have to pretend he doesn't know," he said. "I despise those people (the IRA). I don't know why we never get a better fix on who they are. I think they are murderers.

Republican Congressman Peter King, a supporter of Sinn Fein, retorted angrily: "Gerry Adams has done more for peace in Ireland than Pat Moynihan has ever dreamed of. By even talking of denying Gerry Adams a visa, Moynihan is stabbing the Irish people in the back.

A spokesman for Senator Kennedy said: "It is premature to make a decision on the Adams visa request all of our current and immediate efforts should be directed it restoring the IRA ceasefire.

The exchange highlights the damage done to the cohesion of the Irish American community by the resumption of the IRA campaign.

Typical of the Irish American response to the bombing was an angry letter in yesterday's Irish Voice in New York, from a Mr Tim O'Brien. He said: "In one week, the IRA has wrecked the political standing of a talented Sinn Fein leadership, weakened John Hume within the SDLP, come close to fracturing the nationalist consensus, strengthened the neounionist element in the Dublin Coalition Government, vindicated the intransigence of Ulster unionists, possibly revived loyalist militarism .. .

It had also "handed the main culprit, John Major, the moral high ground", embarrassed President Clinton and "weakened the more pro-Irish elements of the Clinton administration and Clinton's re-election chances".

The Washington Times yesterday said: "To invite Mr Adams into this country would make a mockery of the suffering of those dead and injured in the blasts in London."