10 March 2006

Fund-raising catch to Adams' US visit

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
10 March 2006

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has been invited back to the White House for St Patrick's Day - but he will not be allowed to raise cash while in the US.

Mr Adams is expected to take up the invite, along with other Northern Ireland politicians, for the annual Shamrock Ceremony.

However, the family of a Dublin man murdered by republicans will be among those taking centre stage at the annual festivities.

Relatives of Joseph Rafferty, who was shot dead in a Dublin housing estate last April by a man believed to be a former IRA member, will meet President George W Bush during a special VIP gathering.

Their meeting will mark the second year in a row that Mr Bush has chosen to highlight victims of republican violence at the high profile event. Last year he welcomed the sisters of Robert McCartney, the Belfast man stabbed to death by IRA members.

Northern Ireland politicians were not invited to last year's ceremony because of the disquiet following the McCartney murder and the Northern Bank robbery.

But Mr Bush decided this week to approve the return of politicians, in part to recognise the IRA pledge to become "purely political".

Reports from Washington say US envoy Mitchell Reiss phoned Mr Adams last night to invite him to the White House.

But he was also informed that his visa conditions will not allow him to attend a Sinn Fein fund-raising breakfast in Washington next Thursday.

Fund-raising has been a sore point between Mr Adams and the US recently. In November he refused a trip to New York after being told he could not attend a fund-raising event.

He ended up speaking to the Sinn Fein dinner by a satellite link-up, and later called on Mr Bush to rein in "anti-Sinn Fein elements" in the US administration.

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