Is Gerry Adams Still Toxic In Obama’s White House?

Ed Moloney in The Broken Elbow looks at the relationship between Gerry Adams and the Obama administration.

Update: The US Secret Service has apparently issued an apology for ‘an error’ made by blocking Gerry Adams’ access to the White House. A spokesman said: ‘…an administrative input error received by the Secret Service was not able to be rectified promptly’. Presumably someone forgot to tell the Secret Service that Mr Adams has been a regular visitor to the White House, with security clearance, since the Clinton administration! Meanwhile Martin McGuinness, former IRA Chief of Staff and Northern Commander who approved the use of human bombs, waltzes through without a hint of ‘an administrative input error’! Sure. And I am the King of Siam! How do you do?

As you can see from The Irish Times’ article below, Gerry Adams is not exactly a welcome visitor to the Obama White House these days. On Tuesday this week, he was refused entrance to the White House, where a St Patrick’s Day bash was underway, as security guards checked his passport.

Told that there was ‘a security problem’, Adams was held up for 90 minutes before either his patience expired or the level of political embarrassment became intolerable and he decided to leave.

Adams’ ordeal was put into sharp relief when his companion, SF TD, Mary Lou McDonald was ushered into the White House as was his Stormont colleague, Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, both of whom spent the rest of the afternoon rubbing shoulders with President Obama and other members of his administration.

So what is the difference between Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald and Martin McGuinness? Well neither of the latter pair were allegedly involved in the disappearance of Jean McConville, whose infamous abduction and killing was painstakingly written up exactly a year ago in The New Yorker magazine.

In the wake of that New Yorker piece Gerry Adams was on the receiving end of an apparently deliberate White House snub when he was denied face-to-face meetings with Obama or senior administration officials during the 2015 St Patrick’s Day festivities and palmed off with low level State Department officials instead.

A well respected Washington blog, The Monkey Cage, speculated that separate sex scandals involving his brother and members of Sinn Fein and the IRA, along with difficulties restoring the power-sharing government in Belfast may have been partly responsible.

But the blog also highlighted The New Yorker allegations about his suspected role in the Jean McConville disappearance as being a factor in the White House rebuff. The sex scandals have largely faded from view and the Stormont assembly is safely back in place; but the Jean McConville affair has not gone away.

Here is today’s Irish Times article followed by a post I wrote a year ago about Gerry Adams’ increasing political toxicity in Washington:

Gerry Adams denied entry to White House Irish gathering

Sinn Féin leader left waiting 90 minutes as security detail checked party chief’s passport

Sarah Bardon, Simon Carswell
Gerry Adams was due to attend the annual White House event, hosted by President Barack Obama, with party deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and NI Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was declined entry to a reception for the Irish community in the White House on Tuesday evening.

Mr Adams was due to attend the annual event, hosted by president Barack Obama, with his party’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

However, Mr Adams was forced to wait 90 minutes as security examined his passport. He decided to leave when it became clear there was no immediate resolution.

Ms McDonald and Mr McGuinness attended the event.

Mr Adams faces increased secondary inspections when flying as result of his connections to the republican movement.

However, the issue has never arisen before despite his attendance at the event every year.

In a statement, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams described his treatment as an “unacceptable development”.

He said: “I had received my usual invitation to attend the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the White House and was pleased to accept.

“When I arrived the staff at the White House informed me that there was an issue of ‘security’. After two decades of travelling back and forth to the USA and countless meetings in the White House with successive US Presidents, this is an unacceptable development.

“It is obvious that there remain some within the US administration who seek to treat Sinn Fein differently.

“Some of our political representatives have been denied access to the USA while others, including myself, have to regularly go through additional searches and scrutiny when we travel to and from the USA.

“Last year the State Department initially refused to meet me as part of a transparent effort to pressurise Sinn Féin during negotiations at Stormont.

“That meeting did take place after protests from US political leaders. Efforts to pressurise us in the negotiations failed.

"This morning Martin McGuinness, Mary Lou McDonald and I met with the Congressional Friends of Ireland. They too shared our grave disappointment at the White House situation and expressed their determination to have this issue resolved.

"Sinn Féin will not sit at the back of the bus for anyone. We are elected to represent citizens and we will do this. I am hopeful that the controversy around my White House invitation will help lead to a resolution of all these matters."

“Gerry Adams Increasingly Politically Toxic”: Washington Post Blog

An intriguing explanation for Gerry Adams’ “on-again, off-again” head to head with the US State Department during the St Patrick’ Day festivities in Wahington has come from Henry Farrell, author of the ‘Monkey Cage’ blog on the Washington Post’s online site – and it makes sense.

According to Farrell a combination of distaste at the persistent allegations that Adams ordered the disappearance of widowed mother-of-ten, Jean McConville – given added profile and credibility by this lengthy exposé in last week’s New Yorker magazine – along with the claim that he knew about the child abuse committed by his brother Liam but did nothing about it and what Farrell calls “a swirl of abuse” about rape and sexual abuse by IRA members, have transformed Adams in the eyes of Washington power brokers into “an increasingly controversial figure”.

Changed times indeed. You can read full the article below but first this piece of gossip. I understand that on the periphery of the Hillary Clinton lunch in New York hosted on Monday by Niall O’Dowd, the wannabe Irish ambassador for the next Clinton White House, Gerry Adams had a ten-minute tete-a-tete with Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs.

It would be sensible to presume that Blankfein wanted to get his own take on the leader of the political party which was about to be described as the greatest single threat to Ireland’s economic future by his Chief European economist, Kevin Daly.

The report, which warned that Sinn Fein in government could well take the same stance on Ireland’s debt as Podemos does in Spain and Syriza once promised in Greece, was published a day or so later so presumably Blankfein, whose Goldman Sachs empire was once memorably described by journalist Matt Taibi as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money,” did not have the opportunity to influence Daly’s report.

A pity for Sinn Fein because according to reliable sources Blankfein later told friends that he had been “….greatly impressed” by the Sinn Fein leader, “….and re-assured”.

So the banks of Ireland and Europe can breathe easily.

Anyway here is that Henry Farrell blog piece. Enjoy:

Monkey Cage

How the White House snubbed Irish politicians on St. Patrick’s Day

By Henry Farrell
March 18

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations (never St. Patty’s Day — take it from a native born Irishman) in Washington are usually uncontroversial. Irish politicians aren’t particularly sentimental about shamrocks, leprechauns, green beer and all the rest of it. They are, however, happy to take advantage of the occasion: They fly over to the United States in droves to lobby for Irish interests, and American politicians (who like a good photo opportunity) are willing to play along. Tuesday’s celebrations, however, were different. The Obama administration snubbed two major players in Irish politics — one accidentally, the other deliberately.

So what was the accident?

Vice President Biden is genuinely proud of his Irish roots, with a particular fondness for Irish poetry. He’s also widely and genuinely liked by Irish politicians. However, when welcoming the Irish delegation (led by Ireland’s taoiseach, or prime minister), he cracked a joke that is causing great unhappiness among one, somewhat unwilling group of Irish people — Ulster Unionists. When opening the door to the delegation, he joked that “if you’re wearing orange, you’re not welcome in here.” Orange is traditionally the color of Ulster Unionists, who have historically wanted to preserve the union with Britain, and have been strongly opposed to all strains of Irish nationalism and republicanism. However, the main Ulster Unionist party is now in an uneasy power sharing arrangement in Northern Ireland with Sinn Fein, the Irish republican party. They have expressed their anger at the joke, claiming that it was a disgraceful slur against their political tradition.

This may seem like a non-issue to most Americans. But symbols can be incredibly important in Northern Ireland. Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has done a lot of work promoting peace in Northern Ireland. As he notes in this video interview with Gideon Rose, symbolic issues like parades and flags are incredibly important, and incredibly divisive within Northern Ireland.

And what was the deliberate snub?

Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, claims that U.S. leaders were unwilling to meet with him. Adams says that a meeting with the State Department was initially confirmed — but that he wasn’t invited to any high level meetings with the president or high officials, instead being consigned to the general reception with the hoi polloi. The United States hasn’t said anything about why Adams is being frozen out, but it likely has to do with Sinn Fein’s intransigence in a current stand-off over power sharing. Adams has also become an increasingly controversial figure. As an article published in last week’s New Yorker discusses at length, Adams has been accused of ordering the cold-blooded murder of a single mother at the height of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. He has also admitted that he knew that his brother, Liam Adams, was a child abuser, but did not reveal it to the police, and is in the midst of a swirl of allegations about rape and sexual abuse by IRA members. While Sinn Fein’s popularity hasn’t suffered as badly as you might think, Adams himself is increasingly politically toxic.

What consequences will these snubs have for Irish politics?

Northern Ireland’s political system is going through one of its periodic crises at the moment: The power-sharing arrangement is not working, because of disagreements about spending cuts. Many had hoped that the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Washington would offer an opportunity for the United States to bully and persuade the different parties to resolve their differences. This is now more complicated than was initially expected. The accidental snub is less important. Biden’s joke will probably do no more than to temporarily complicate negotiations. Ulster Unionists will find it moderately useful in pushing back against U.S. pressure to reach a deal. The more overt snub of Gerry Adams is more significant. It hasn’t been accompanied by any statement or explanation, and it’s less a complete refusal to meet than a downgrading of relations. But one plausible interpretation is that it is a signal from the United States to Sinn Fein, suggesting that Sinn Fein (and in particular, figures like Adams) will find a cold welcome in future unless they fully accommodate themselves to current politics, participate in power sharing, and properly resolve their past association with terrorism.

Henry Farrell is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. He works on a variety of topics, including trust, the politics of the Internet and international and comparative political economy.


  1. This could also be the Yanks aiding Kenny and Co in political maneuvering Adams to the sideline. Coalitions need formed and Adams is Person non Grata in any potential coalition......Mary Lou still went ahead with her visit while her mastor remained in the dog house...really!

  2. Niall

    I thought the same thing -Martin McGuinness also ditched Adams at the door so even his own party members are not going to join him on the bench.

  3. Never mind the White House - Adams is toxic in the South. Sinn Fein should have dumped Adams after the 2011 election - Fianna Fail was on the floor and the Left hadn't found its voice. Along the way, the likes of Paul Murphy and Boyd-Barrett outflanked Sinn Fein and won seats which they will definitely keep - seats which are natural Sinn Fein seats. Adams cost Sinn Fein at least six seats - and the Sinn Fein Vote was DOWN on the Council elections.
    Adams performance in the TV debates was comical - when it comes to economics, it looks like Adams has to take off his shoes and socks to count to twenty.
    And as for his comparing himself to Rosa Parks? Adams has proved conclusively that he is a , deluded, pompous, narcissistic clown!