No visa for Adams, says US

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In A setback for the Irish republican cause here, the US has signalled that until the IRA reinstates its ceasefire it will refuse a visa to Gerry Adams, the leader of the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein.

According to diplomats here, the Clinton Administration has let it be known to Mr Adams that if he seeks a visa to come here around St Patrick's Day on 17 March - as he has done each of the last two years - the request would be refused.

The development is the sharpest sign yet of the increasingly visible irritation here that despite constant entreaties from Washington, the IRA has not taken the step which will gain Sinn Fein a presence at the virtually stalled Irish peace talks, which the US worked hard to help set up, and which are chaired by the former US Senate majority leader George Mitchell.

In February 1994 President Clinton overruled his own State Department and strident objections from London, and reversed decades of US policy, by granting a visa to Mr Adams. The following year he won the prize of a formal invitation to the White House, and permission for his party to engage in limited fundraising in the US.

For the record, Sinn Fein is insisting that it has made no formal request for a visa, and that Mr Adams is very anxious not to be away from Britain with a general election possible at any moment. He is ,however, known to be keen to promote his new book in the US.

Mr Adams's last visit here was in March 1996, a month after the IRA bombing at Canary Wharf ended a 17 month ceasefire. Since then moderate Irish American opinion has swung increasingly against the IRA.