03 November 2005

US 'should not curb SF fundraising'


03/11/2005 - 09:22:30

President George Bush’s officials would be making a mistake if they place any restrictions on Gerry Adams’ ability to speak at fundraising events in the US, Washington was warned today.

Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness expressed concern at newspaper reports quoting US State Department sources as saying there could be a visa restriction on the Sinn Féin leader, who is due to visit New York later this month for an annual fundraising dinner.

The Mid Ulster MP said Mr Adams would pull out of the visit if restrictions were placed on him addressing the events.

And he also warned that Irish republicans would resist any attempt by the Bush administration to link the visa conditions with Sinn Féin’s refusal to endorse the North’s system of policing.

Mr McGuinness said: “These fundraising events allow supporters of Irish unity to contribute to Sinn Féin’s political programme to achieve this through peaceful and democratic activity.

“Such support is entirely legitimate and indeed necessary in demonstrating that politics works.

“The US has played a pivotal role in the creation and evolution of the peace process.

“An even-handed approach has been the hallmark of success in this. All parties have been treated equally.

“However, any heavy-handed attempt by the State Department to try and dictate Sinn Féin policy on policing is misguided and will do nothing to help in the resolution of this key issue.”

Sinn Fein is the only one of the four largest parties in the North to refuse its seats on boards designed to hold the Police Service of Northern Ireland accountable.

Despite Government, rival nationalist SDLP and Catholic bishops’ support for policing, the party has insisted police reforms in the North do not go far enough.

They want policing and justice powers to be transferred out of British government hands to a new devolved ministry at Stormont.

Mr McGuinness said: “Sinn Féin knows what we have to do on policing. Our position is very clear.

“The British government also knows what it has to do on policing. It has given a series of commitments on this.

“The upcoming period will provide ample opportunities to establish whether these commitments have been honoured.

“President Bush’s special envoy Mitchell Reiss knows this and he and the State Department have been fully briefed on our party’s position.

“If Gerry Adams has restrictions imposed on his visa, this means you would have the ludicrous and unsustainable situation where he is allowed to travel to the US, but he would be banned from attending the fundraising event, which will go ahead in any event.

“If Gerry Adams is banned from addressing US citizens at fundraising events next week, he will not travel to the United States. Of course, he and others in the Sinn Féin leadership will continue to engage with US opinion and he will travel there as part of that engagement in the time ahead.”

Mr McGuinness said that if the US Government adopted the policy, it would play into the hands of anti-Good Friday Agreement unionists and also cause deep anger among Irish-American supporters of the peace process.

It would also be out of step with the British government’s approach to Sinn Féin, he argued.

“There is no ban on Gerry Adams attending fundraising events in Britain,” the Mid Ulster MP said.

“Inevitably, such a wholly negative approach by the US would have serious political repercussions and would be used by anti-Agreement unionists, including the DUP, to undermine the progress that has been made this year and damage the hopes for progress in the months ahead.

“It is important that this matter is resolved as speedily as possible.”

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