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US denies RSF leader entry visa

(Catherine Morrison, Irish News)

Republican Sinn Féin President Ruairi O Bradaigh has been refused a visa to enter the US. The former head of Sinn Féin said he had been planning to visit New York for a book launch but was denied a visa by the administration over terrorism fears.

Mr O Bradaigh – a key figure in republican politics since the 1950s – is the subject of a new biography by an American university professor.

Dr Robert W White's 350-page work on the life of Mr O Bradaigh is already on sale in Ireland and was to be launched at the weekend in New York.

"The proposed weekend visit to New York was intended solely for the book launch, surely a political act which has now been suppressed by the US Department of State,'' a spokesman for RSF said.

Mr O Bradaigh is believed to be the only person who has served as chief of staff of the IRA, as president of the political party Sinn Féin and to have been elected – as an abstentionist in the 1950s – to the Dail.

He took part in the Feakle talks in Co Clare involving the IRA leadership and Protestant churchmen in 1974.

In 1983 he was succeeded as president of Sinn Féin by Gerry Adams and when the party ended its policy of abstention from the Dail in 1986, he led a walk-out to form Republican Sinn Féin.

The move comes after two high-profile Sinn Féin representatives were refused visas to travel to the US to attend a Hunger Strike commemoration.

Conor Murphy MP and assembly member Barry McElduff had been due to travel to Boston for meetings and take part in a number of events.

However, they were forced to cancel the trip because the US administration did not process their visa applications in time.

In 2004, the US State Department announced it was adding the Continuity Army Council, as well as Republican Sinn Féin, to its list of foreign illegal organisations.

Under American law, this makes it illegal for persons in the US or subject to US jurisdiction to knowingly provide material support to any of the three groups and requires financial institutions in the US to block the groups' assets.

It also allows the US to deny visas to representatives and members of the groups.

However, Mr O Bradaigh has strongly denied that his party is effectively the political wing of the Continuity IRA.

The book, entitled Ruairi O Bradaigh: the Life and Politics of an Irish Revolutionary is by Robert W White, Dean of the Indiana University School of Liberal Art, and published by Indiana University Press.

October 24, 2006

This article appeared first in the October 23, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

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