The Sunday Telegraph

President riled Major over US visa for Adams

Biden urged Bill Clinton to allow the then Sinn Fein leader to visit New York, angering prime minister

- By Patrick Sawer

JOE BIDEN was among a group of US politician­s who angered Sir John Major’s government when he lobbied for Gerry Adams to be granted a US visa, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

The then senator was among a group of Democrat politician­s who worked to convince Bill Clinton to grant Mr Adams, then president of Sinn Fein, a visa in 1994.

Mr Biden argued that allowing Mr Adams to visit the US would draw him deeper into the peace process and distance him from the IRA’s continuing armed struggle against British rule in the province.

But sources have revealed that his efforts infuriated Sir John’s administra­tion, which did not want the Irish republican leader to enjoy the prestige and credibilit­y which would accompany such a visit.

Although initially wary of granting him a visa, the US government changed its approach days before the visit was due after Mr Adams made remarks about ending violence in a meeting with American diplomats in Belfast.

During the visit to New York, Mr Adams enjoyed a hero’s welcome, boosting his profile and standing in the large and influentia­l Irish-American community. A senior UK diplomatic source told The Sunday Telegraph: “Joe Biden did encourage president Bill Clinton to ignore British advice and get Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to the US. It wasn’t really what we thought was helpful at the time. With hindsight, however, it probably forced Adams and McGuinness to sign up to the peace process, but it was not a popular decision with the British.”

Documents released in 2018 revealed that Mr Clinton’s decision to issue a visa left Sir John so furious that he felt unable to communicat­e with the president until he was “in a calmer mood”.

But the reaction of British ministers to Mr Biden’s part in the process has not been revealed until now.

The diplomatic source said: “Biden was one of a group of people, along with Teddy Kennedy and John Kerry, who argued for Adams to be admitted to the United States.

“I’m sure Mr Biden did not give money to groups like Noraid and he was not a supporter of violence, but he was very keen on the Good Friday Agreement.”

Britain’s ambassador to Washington at the time, Sir Peter Westmacott, has confirmed there was disquiet in Whitehall at Mr Biden’s efforts to draw Mr Adams into the peace process, with diplomats fearing it would give the IRA a platform to justify terrorism.

Mr Clinton last year tweeted on the 25th anniversar­y of the visit that his decision to grant Mr Adams a visa was “highly controvers­ial but critical” to jump-starting the peace process.

Mr Biden has spoken fondly of his Irish Catholic roots, and made no secret of his sympathies for the cause of Irish nationalis­m.

A former Biden aide, Shailagh Murray, told The New York Times earlier this year: “The Irish cause is in his veins.”

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 ??  ?? Gerry Adams and Joe Biden pictured together in 2017
Gerry Adams and Joe Biden pictured together in 2017

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