Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald has said she was subjected to “heavy-handed and very invasive” security searches while travelling home from the United States after St Patrick’s Day.
The party’s deputy leader (pictured, right) described the treatment of Sinn Fein members by the US authorities as “almost off the wall”.
“Certainly people have to be kept safe and all the rest of it. We represent absolutely no threat to anybody and I think they know that,” she said.
It comes after Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was prevented by White House security from taking up an invitation to attend a St Patrick’s Day gathering due to what was later described as an “administration error”. He said that while he has accepted an apology he does not believe the reason given for stopping his entry to the party.
Senior party TD Martin Ferris was also detained by authorities at Boston airport for four hours.
Speaking after her return, Ms McDonald said her party were being treated unfairly year after year in the US but the White House incident had brought the situation into the limelight.
“I’ll be meeting with the ambassador, we’ll be talking to the authorities because this shouldn’t be happening. It’s completely unnecessary,” she said.
“The administration in the US is well aware that Sinn Fein and the leadership of Sinn Fein over many years have been architects of the peace process, are a force for good, for positivity, for democracy.
“And whereas stringent security is defensible, singling people out, it seems to me simply on the basis of your political view, is not an acceptable thing to do,” Ms McDonald said.
“We are not looking for special treatment but I would ask for myself as to why I would merit special security checks, why any member of Sinn Fein merit special security checks.”
Mr Adams also confirmed he is to write to the White House this week to seek further explanation as to why he was refused entry to a reception there. The Sinn Fein president said it was not acceptable for a guest to be invited to an event and then denied access. He said: “That is not acceptable and I do accept the apology that was given but do not accept the explanation.”
A move by the Department of Homeland Security to deport Malachy McAllister, an INLA Volunteer as a teenager, has also been seen as a possible return to regressive attitudes by the US authorities.
Mr McAllister (pictured, left) who has been living in New Jersey for 20 years, fled Belfast in 1988 with his young family following a vicious gun attack on his home and family by loyalists acting in collusion with British state forces.
Seeking asylum in the US, he was instead threatened with deportation. After a lengthy legal and political process which involving prominent Irish-American figures, he was allowed to remain under a “prosecutorial discretion” policy for low-priority immigrants.
Hus legal team said that on Thursday, however, that this “safety net” was “swiftly and unexpectedly withdrawn”.
Mr McAllister stated: “I am shocked and deeply saddened that, after 20 years, I am to be ripped from my family, my infant son, my business and community to a country I had to flee from nearly 30 years ago to bring my young family to safety.”