Adams is granted visa for visit to US

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Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, is to be given a visa for the United States so that he can attend the St Patrick's Day celebrations.

In a move which will anger sections of the Tory party, President Bill Clinton decided to grant a visa to Mr Adams but to attach conditions which prevent him raising funds for Sinn Fein.

Mike McCurry, the White House spokesman, said the president had made his decision following the agreement on Wednesday by the British and Irish governments for Northern Ireland peace negotiations to begin on 10 June. President Clinton had been hesitant until yesterday about Mr Adams' visa request, made a month ago so he could attend this year's St Patrick's Day festivities in the United States, because of the resumption of the IRA bombing campaign.

"To further the peace process," Mr McCurry said, "it was agreed to give Gerry Adams a multiple entry three-month visa to allow him to hear from the Irish American community and also to hear how anxious the American people are to see peace return to Northern Ireland.

"The reason for giving him the visa," Mr McCurry said, "is to advance the very peace process that we believe now holds out such promise."

Describing Mr Adams' visa as one of "very limited nature", the White House spokesman added: "He's told us he will not be fund raising and there are no plans for him to visit the White House or any other government departments." Mr McCurry added that there would "certainly be no meetings until the ceasefire is restored".

The relatively "hands off'' approach adopted by Whitehall could reflect a resignation in government circles to the prospect that Mr Adams would anyway be granted a visa. But it may also stem from the hope that the US will apply pressure on Mr Adams to secure a restoration of the ceasefire. In that sense Whitehall may believe that there may even be a benefit in the Sinn Fein president visiting the US.

Nevertheless, the granting of a visa, at a time when Mr Adams has conspicuously failed to condemn the resumption of the IRA ceasefire, will anger not only the Ulster Unionists but also some prominent Tory backbenchers with an interest in Northern Ireland issues.

David Wilshire, the Tory MP for Spelthorne, who this week attacked the peace bid by John Major and John Bruton as "appeasement", said last night: "Adams will be going to New York with blood on his hands."

A ministerial source said: "The backbenches will be extremely angry about this. The Government is not very happy with it. He may be banned from fund raising in the States but that's too late. The money has already fled from the States to Ireland."