Kennedy-Hume meeting sparked visa campaign: Leonard Doyle explains how a transatlantic Irish-American alliance was forged

EARLY IN January, Senator Edward Kennedy met John Hume in a Boston hotel room for urgent talks about the Northern Ireland peace process.

The two men, who have been friends for years, discussed the fate of the Downing Street declaration and the prospects of Gerry Adams finally being given a visa to enter the United States.

The meeting was to trigger a co-ordinated lobbying of the Clinton administration that culminated in a diplomatic rout for the British Embassy in Washington.

Mr Hume, who is revered by many in the Democratic National Party, has cultivated an extensive network of politicians and business contacts over the past two decades.

He informed Senator Kennedy that providing Mr Adams with the visa he has been denied eight times in the last 20 years could help the declaration.

Senator Kennedy enlisted the aid of other key committee chairmen, like Senator Christopher Dodd and Senator Daniel Moynihan, both powerful politicians with ethnic Irish constituents, to the Adams visa cause. The fact that they are men on whom he depends for his own domestic agenda was not lost on President Clinton.

From the beginning of the Ulster conflict, the Irish-American political establishment has devoted a considerable amount of energy to denying Sinn Fein, or its North American arm, Noraid, a public platform in the US. The rejection by the overwhelming majority of Irish-American politicians of the IRA's violence ensured a hostile reception for the IRA's message and kept the Irish-American community - some 40 million strong and now the wealthiest ethnic group in the US - from being a powerful political force on this issue.

The Hume-Adams dialogue, and subsequent Downing Street declaration has made the Irish nationalist agenda respectable and given the community a new and powerful voice in American politics. Irish-American Catholic voters are a key swing vote in US politics, which was a factor in persuading President Clinton that it would be unwise to rebuff them over the visa - as he had already done twice in the past 12 months.

During his presidential campaign, Mr Clinton told a hastily arranged Irish-American forum that he would, if elected, give Mr Adams a visa, that he would send a peace envoy to Northern Ireland, and that he would take up the cudgels against London (and the IRA) for human rights abuses.

The trade union movement - traditionally an Irish fiefdom in the US - also weighed in on behalf of Mr Adams, with the umbrella AFL-CIO union telling the Clinton administration that the peace process in Northern Ireland was something that many of its members were concerned about.

The president's decision to grant the temporary 48-hour visa came late on Saturday. The decision was almost derailed by bomb hoaxes in San Diego, California, which mystify officials. Three practice grenades were found at the Shakespeare Pub and Grille, a curio shop called All things Bright and British, and at the federal courthouse. A caller said they were to protest at the failure to give Mr Adams a visa.

It was only when Mr Adams renounced the bomb hoaxes that the administration finally relented.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine