By Stephen McKinley
The decision by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams not to attend today’s House International Relations Committee Hearing in Congress into alleged links between the IRA and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has drawn a sharp reaction from the committee chairman, Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois.
Criticism of Sinn Fein’s no-show has come from other circles as well, such as the Ancient Order of the Hibernians in the U.S. and the SDLP in Northern Ireland.
Hyde’s spokesperson, Sam Stratman, expressed disappointment that Adams had not flown into Washington, and said that the hearings would have been “an opportunity for Sinn Fein to offer some explanation about why two IRA explosives experts and a Sinn Fein political officer stationed in Cuba were arrested in August following a visit to a safe haven controlled by [FARC].”
Mike Cummings, National Secretary of the AOH said: “I don’t know what Mr. Adams knows about this incident, but not showing up is certainly not helpful.
“We don’t share the alarm of other organizations about a congressional hearing,” he said, referring to attempts by other Irish American groups to have the hearings cancelled. “If there is a reason to connect the IRA with groups in Colombia, then it’s legitimate to ask questions.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
“It’s not surprising to me that Adams did not show up, but what is surprising that there was no written submission from Sinn Fein. That is unfortunate and will be viewed as unfortunate by a great number of people.”
In Northern Ireland, Alex Attwood of the SDLP asked what Sinn Fein had to hide. “Sinn Fein called for others to be made accountable but wished to avoid accountability for their own actions,” he said.
Attwood also accused Adams of setting a dangerous precedent in saying his appearance could prejudice the trial of the Columbia Three. This was the same argument the British government was using to refuse an inquiry into the murder of solicitor, Pat Finucane, he said.
Drawing a direct link between the IRA and FARC, Henry Hyde’s spokesperson said, “Terrorism imperils Colombian democracy and the alleged IRA role in helping groups like the FARC perpetuate this violence poses a direct threat to U.S. national interests.”
But Irish American activist and lawyer Frank Durkan offered a different interpretation.
“[Gerry Adams] is well within his rights not to attend this hearing,” he said. “A far better question to ask is what is happening to all the money the U.S. is sending to Colombia than to ask what FARC was doing with those guys.
“The hearing imperils the peace process in Ireland. I think it’s being orchestrated by the British.”
Father Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus in Washington, D.C., said that if he had attended, “[Adams] would have allowed himself to have been used as a political pawn in a dirty little game to get the United States militarily involved in the 38-year-old civil war in Colombia.”
Back in Northern Ireland, James Leslie of the Ulster Unionist Party said Adams’s refusal to attend the committee was “an affront to the biggest democracy in the world.” He added that Adams would not be able to evade scrutiny in the upcoming debate on the IRA cease-fire at Stormont.