Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams' decision to snub a Washington committee investigating connections between the Irish Republican Army and Colombian guerrillas set off a round of denunciations Wednesday. According to the Belfast Telegraph, an inquiry conducted by the House International Relations Committee "placed the IRA within a 'global terrorist network' and concluded Irish, Iranian, Cuban and possibly Basque groups had 'been sharing techniques, honing their terrorism skills, using illicit drug proceeds in payment.' " The links between the IRA and Colombian rebels have been known since three men associated with the IRA and its political wing, Sinn Fein, were arrested in Bogotá last August and charged with aiding FARC guerrillas (see this "International Papers" column). The report said foreign training had "markedly improved the Farc's proficiency in urban terrorism." Adams said his appearance in Washington could prejudice the trial of the "Colombia Three" and endanger the Northern Ireland peace process. On Wednesday, the IRA issued a statement declaring, "The IRA has not interfered in the internal affairs of Colombia and will not do so."
Dublin's Irish Times said Adams had calculated that testifying before Congress was a lose-lose proposition: "Even Mr Adams's renowned eloquence and charm would be unlikely to carry him past the intensive questioning to which he would have been subjected. The mood of America, post September 11th, is intolerant of anything that smacks of support for terror." The editorial said Sinn Fein's priority was the May 17 general election in the Republic of Ireland; to extend its reach beyond its core supporters, the party must convince voters it has moved on from its paramilitary past. "The party's attempts to present a clean image will be offset by unpleasant reminders that it is inextricably linked to a paramilitary army whose structures remain intact and which is still well-armed and well-resourced." An op-ed in the Irish Independent agreed: "But whatever about losing influential friends in Washington, Gerry Adams is seeking to win over Irish voters to Sinn Fein."
The Financial Times said the House committee "has come rather late to the realisation that the IRA has colluded with terrorist networks across the globe. There is some resentment in Britain and Northern Ireland that the republicans drew on the moral and financial backing of prominent Americans during a terrorist campaign lasting more than 30 years." Elsewhere, the FT reported that Adams "defiantly predicted that the party's US support would not be affected by his refusal to explain the arrests in Colombia. He said the party had just completed its most extensive fundraising tour in the US."
In an editorial archly titled, "Shock, horror! Adams rejects a US invitation," the unionist News Letter of Belfast contrasted Adams' 1997 campaign to secure a visa for the United States. "Who would have thought, when he was bending ears in London, Dublin and Washington in a bid to enter the US half a dozen years ago, that Gerry Adams would one day turn down an invitation to take centre stage in an American drama?" The News Letter said the best place for Adams to raise his concerns about a possible miscarriage of justice in Colombia was Washington, D.C. "Unless, of course, Sinn Fein really does have something to hide."