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Clinton is not nearly so Irish as he was before the election.

Disclosures that the British government and the Irish Republican Army have been secretly speaking to each other since February created an uproar among those on both sides who equate compromise with defeat. Others, seeing negotiations and the taking of risks for peace as signs of rationality, are heartened that at least some open-mindedness is occurring.

In the Clinton administration's relations with the IRA, the value of dialogue hasn't been learned. For some time, speaking invitations have been extended by U.S. groups to Gerry Adams, the Northern Ireland politician who is president of Sinn Fein, the legal political wing of the IRA that is supported at the polls by 40 percent of Northern Ireland's Catholic population.

Replying to a recent press conference query on whether Adams would be allowed into the United States to speak, Clinton said no, we have a law that excludes terrorists.

The unasked follow-up question should have been, if Adams has been terrorizing people - bombing and killing them in the customary way of Northern Ireland - why isn't he in a British prison? Or why has he never been convicted in Northern Ireland courts, which, as seen in the cases of the now-freed Guilford Four and Birmingham Six, have few qualms about imprisoning even the innocent.

The crucial question that needs airing is one that focuses on the character of Clinton, not Adams. On April 5, 1992, while campaigning in the final two days of the New York Democratic primary - with polls showing a large percentage of the state's Irish-Americans undecided - Clinton couldn't have sounded sweeter notes had he strummed an Irish harp and sung "Danny Boy" in Gaelic.

Gerry Adams. Let him in, said the candidate, along with any other elected officials of the Sinn Fein who want to speak here: "I think it would be totally harmless to our national security and would widen the political debate in this country. Yes, I would support the visa."

Irish eyes were smiling at that, including those of then Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, Paul O'Dwyer and Irish National Caucus president Fr. Sean McManus. All were in the front row applauding as Clinton addressed the American-Irish Presidential Forum in New York. As generous as St. Patrick dispensing shamrocks, Clinton gave the crowd more by issuing two other pledges, neither of which has been fulfilled: He would appoint a special peace envoy for Northern Ireland; and he would speak out forcefully against British human rights violations in the occupied six counties of Ulster.

Two days later, Clinton, in the clover, won the New York primary, with strong support among Irish Catholics. Now, 20 months later, he goes back on his word. His latest betrayal - denying Adams a visa - positions him as out-Britishing the British as they once were. The government of Prime Minister John Major is talking to the IRA As modest an advance toward peace in Northern Ireland as that is, it does signal an about-face from Britain's long and absolute refusal to have contact with the outlawed IRA. If Britain is now facing reality - that the IRA, with its call for British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, has to be included in negotiations - that ought to induce Clinton to return to his commitments of April 1992 when he found Gerry Adams fit to "widen the political debate."

Ian Paisley, a spewer of religious bigotry and hate against the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, is routinely allowed into the United States to rant. He should be welcomed, along with Adams and anyone else who can get a platform.

It wasn't that long ago that Yasser Arafat was ruled unfit for an American audience. Now he and Clinton are into hugging.
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Title Annotation:Northern Ireland peace negotiations
Author:McCarthy, Colman
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Column
Date:Dec 17, 1993
Words:610
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