Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was prevented from attending a St Patrick’s Day event at the White House last night by security personnel, although his deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and colleague Martin McGuinness were allowed to take part.
The Sinn Fein president was due to attend the annual event hosted by President Barack Obama. However he was prevented from entering the White House by security personnel in an incident a Sinn Fein spokesperson described as an “administrative problem”.
“He was invited to the event by Obama, but there was a hold up and he just went on,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Adams has been to the White House on numerous occasions in the past and had attended the annual speaker’s lunch on Capitol Hill earlier in the day, where President Obama was also in attendance.
Mr Adams had received an invitation to this year’s event, which would have required lengthy pre-screening by the FBI and Secret Service.
However, reports from the US say that Mr Adams was pulled aside from the Sinn Fein visiting party by security personnel who examined his documents for 90 minutes. Mr Adams eventually decided to leave the event when it appeared there was no resolution.
Ms McDonald and Mr McGuinness attended the event where Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny presented Obama with the traditional bowl of shamrock.
In his remarks President Obama expressed regret that he was holding his last St Patrick’s Day party. He spoke of the “volatility in the electoral process” but stressed that the need to boost trade and investment is “the one thing that is constant”.
However, he was criticised by Irish-Americans for the apparent snub to the Sinn Fein leader.
“The departure of Adams, a prime architect of the IRA ceasefire and the peace process, is an embarrassment for the Obama administration, who will struggle to explain how Ireland’s third most popular party leader in the Irish Republic and a huge vote getter was left standing outside,” said Irish-American commentator Niall O’Dowd.
Speaking at Leinster House today, Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh said he wasn’t aware of the incident and said it should not have happened. The Dublin South-Central TD said it is a matter for the US authorities, but the White House has not made a statement on the matter.
“No political representative should be left out but we’ll see what exactly is involved,” he said.