Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has called on the US to review its security arrangements for visits by party representatives after he was dramatically refused entry to a St Patrick’s reception at the White House.
Mr Adams had been invited to the White House event along with his deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and the North’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. Like other guests, Mr Adams had received an official White House invitation which had been pre-cleared by secret service staff.
However, on arrival Mr Adams was told there was a “security issue” which needed to be addressed before he was granted entry, while the other Sinn Fein representatives were allowed to proceed.
The US Secret Service later released a statement blaming “an administrative input error received by the Secret Service was not able to be rectified promptly”.
The US President did not commented on the matter, but in his final St Patrick’s event, engaged with Martin McGuinness and expressed support for the Stormont leader’s controversial ‘Fresh Start’ agreement in November last year.
Speaking in New York before Thursday’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations, Mr Adams said the State Department had apologised for “the White House situation”. However, he called for “the full normalisation of relations between Sinn Fein and the White House”.
He also referred to a similar experience inflicted on Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris, who was detained by US officials for several hours in Boston on Wednesday.
“The constant additional security processes and delays which Sinn Fein representatives are regularly subject to has long been a cause of concern. We have raised it privately in the past,” he said.
“Yesterday my colleague Martin Ferris was delayed getting on his flight to Boston and when he eventually arrived on a later flight he was held for several hours.”
He also welcomed a letter from members of the US House of Congress to the White House in which they express their outrage over the decision to refuse Mr Adams access to the St Patrick’s Day celebrations at the White House on Tuesday evening.
The incident involving Mr Ferris has increased suspicions that some Sinn Fein representatives are being subjected to differential treatment according to an unknown political agenda.
Following the White House on Wednesday, Mr Adams said Sinn Fein would “not sit at the back of the bus for anyone”.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan criticised the comment, which he said had drawn an unwelcome parallel with US civil rights leader Rosa Park. However, Mr Adams later repeated it.
“I mean I was invited to the place,” he said. I was there at least 30 times in the last 20 years at different events and for talks and meetings as well as for these more ceremonial celebrations of St Patrick’s Day. So you know we aren’t going to sit at the back of the bus.
“It is obvious that there remain some within the US administration who seek to treat Sinn Fein differently.”