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My, how times have changed! After many years of complaints by the British, the Bush administration curtailed the fundraising and travel of Sinn Fein leadership in the US after the murder of a Belfast man last year. Now the British want the Bush administration to reverse the ban after getting SF leader Gerry Adams to agree to a total disarmament earlier this year, and the White House apparently has balked:
BRITAIN is pressing President Bush’s Administration to lift a fundraising ban imposed last year on the leadership of Sinn Fein, The Times has learnt.
But Mitchell Reiss, Mr Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland, has so far refused to heed calls from the British and Irish governments. They believe that Sinn Fein should be rewarded for renouncing its armed struggle and decommissioning IRA weapons.
Both sides are playing down any talk of a significant row, although sources in London have confirmed that “there is a clear difference of opinion between us on this issue”.
A senior US official acknowledged that it was “ironic” that Britain, having spent years fulminating over the millions of dollars raised by the Irish Northern Aid Committee (Noraid) to finance Sinn Fein and the IRA, should be seeking to get a fundraising ban lifted.
Restrictions were reintroduced by the Bush Administration last year after controversy over the IRA’s alleged role in the murder of Robert McCartney and the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery.
In my opinion, the ban was long overdue, and the lifting of restrictions on Adams' travel was a well-intentioned mistake of the Clinton administration. Bill Clinton wanted to ensure that the Good Friday accord would take root and decided to allow Adams to travel unfettered through the US, where he raised enormous amounts of cash from naive Americans of Irish descent. Adams funneled the money back into the IRA, which had long since developed an unhealthy fascination with Marxism, Palestinian terrorism, and their own home-grown version of organized crime and terror. Even after 9/11, the prospect of peace in Northern Ireland prompted Bush to continue Clinton's mistake, until the two spectacular and heinous crimes convinced the US that the IRA was probably irredeemable.
That proved incorrect, or at least it looks that way now, but at least we have not put American money into the pockets of thugs and terrorists during this ban. I suspect that the Bush administration learned the lesson and now wants to wait until the IRA verifiably disarms before allowing Adams to conduct his fundraising through the pubs of America. They also want to use the ban to pressure Sinn Fein to agree to the new policing structures. Also, as the Times notes, most of their donors probably have no idea that 90% of their donations pay for expensive travel and lodging; only 10 cents on the dollar actually gets into Sinn Fein coffers.
In this case, we may want to follow the lead of the British. If Sinn Fein meets their expectations for rejection of terrorism, we should probably acquiesce in order to maintain a united approach on the state of Northern Ireland, which after all concerns Ireland and Britain more than it does ourselves. If my fellow Americans of Irish descent want to allow themselves to be fleeced, as long as the money no longer goes to terrorism, that's their problem and no longer America's.Sphere It View blog reactions
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"Britain is pressing President Bush's Administration to lift a fundraising ban imposed last year on the leadership of Sinn Fein," the Times of London reports. My, what a reversal in positions.... [Read More]
Tracked on June 6, 2006 7:05 AM
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