Irish-Americans turn against Sinn Fein

Backlash could cost Gerry Adams his visa to the US, writes David Usborne in New York
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The Independent Online
As the White House ponders whether to allow Gerry Adams to visit the United States next month, many Irish-Americans who embraced the Sinn Fein leader while the Irish peace process was intact are now voicing doubts about him.

A backlash against Mr Adams might compel the Clinton administration to deny him his request for a visa to attend St Patrick's Day celebrations in New York and Boston. Officials in Washington are hoping that Mr Adams will himself make alternative plans, so that a formal rebuffal of him can be avoided.

Senator Daniel Moynihan of New York spoke out against renewing Mr Adams's visa in yesterday's Daily News. A long-time key figure on the Irish- American landscape, the senator said: "It's the President's call, but I don't think he should let him back in. We can talk to him any time we want to. But why do we have to have him around with a parade?"

The senator, who backed President Clinton's initiative last year to give Mr Adams access to the US and allow him to raise funds for Sinn Fein, also scoffed at the notion that Mr Adams did not know who ordered the resumption of violence. "We have to pretend he doesn't know," he said.

Others who joined in embracing Mr Adams during his visits to the US before the peace process was shattered, also concede that their feelings about him have changed. Edward Gaffney, a law school dean at Valparaiso University in Indiana, attended Mr Adams's first big US fund-raising event in New York nearly a year ago and contributed to Sinn Fein. Today, he still believes that the peace process can be rescued. But if asked to contribute to Sinn Fein again, he would demur.

Michael Coyne, meanwhile, was at Mr Adams's last large US benefit, a breakfast in Pittsburgh five days before the Docklands attack. Mr Coyne, clerk of the courts in Pittsburgh, is also loath to give up on Mr Adams or blame him for the bombings. But he admits to new doubts and advises the White House to adopt a tougher stance. "I think they should say `No' to any more fundraising, but give him the visa. The carrot and stick."

The Irish Voice newspaper yesterday excoriated the "few shadowy men" of the IRA who renewed the campaign of violence in London. "What do the IRA think is the tolerance of Americans for this kind of savage behaviour, since the Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center bombings brought home to millions of Americans what acts of terrorism could accomplish? Do they know that broken glass and bodies and grief-stricken relatives tend to look the same wherever a bombing occurs?"

n Washington (Reuter) - The US is reviewing whether to continue to allow Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army's political wing, to raise funds in the United States, the State Department said yesterday.