US fails to issue Martin Ferris visa in time for US tour

Ferris says he has received visas from US authorities 11 previous times without incident

Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris was forced to cancel a tour of the United States after the US State Department did not issue him a visa in time to travel.

In an interview with The Boston Globe on Thursday, Mr Ferris said he had applied for a visa waiver, required for former IRA figures with prison records, at the US embassy in Dublin on January 11th. Because such applications typically take about six weeks to process, Mr Ferris believed he had provided authorities enough time to process his application. But, after nine weeks, the visa was still not forthcoming, and Mr Ferris said US officials offered no explanation.

Mr Ferris said that he had received visas from US authorities 11 previous times without incident, although during his last visit to Boston in 2016 he claimed he was delayed by US Immigration officials at Dublin Airport so long that he missed his flight.

When he arrived in Boston on a later flight, he said, FBI agents took his phone and questioned him for about three hours, asking whether he intended to meet dissident republican figures in the United States.


Mr Ferris said he found that line of questioning odd because he said dissident republicans despise him and the Sinn Féin leadership for their role in the peace process.

Two years ago, Mr Ferris was released by the FBI and went on to a full schedule of events, much of them themed on the centennial of the Easter Rising.

But he said he was forced to cancel this week's itinerary, which had included stops in Florida, Ohio and Kentucky, before coming to Boston.

After holding a fundraiser for Sinn Féin in Boston on Friday, Mr Ferris was scheduled to spend Saturday in western Massachusetts as the guest of Congressman Richard Neal and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, meeting many local residents who trace their roots to his native Kerry.

“I’m very disappointed,” Mr Ferris said.

Asked if he thought it was a deliberate snub by the US government, Mr Ferris replied, “I don’t know. I hope not.”

Mr Ferris wasn't the only Sinn Féin official who didn't get a visa to enter the US this week. Richard McAuley, long-time aide to former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, was forced to cancel his plans to accompany Adams to the US. Adams and another senior Sinn Féin official, Rita O'Hare, were allowed to enter the US because they have multiple-entry visas, while Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and Mr Ferris' daughter, Toireasa, entered on tourist visas.

Toireasa Ferris, who had planned to accompany her father on his various stops throughout Massachusetts, will now attend the engagements herself.