BELFAST — An internal feud that has toppled support for Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland is about to spill over into St. Patrick’s Day events in Washington.
Gerry Adams, the head of the Irish Republican Army’s political wing, has been pointedly not invited to the White House for the first time in seven years after a spectacular bank robbery blamed on the IRA.
Instead, White House officials said yesterday, an invitation is likely to be extended to five Northern Ireland women who, by demanding justice for the death of their brother in a bar brawl, have sent support for the IRA to its lowest level in decades.
No political leaders from Northern Ireland will be invited to the White House this St. Patrick’s Day. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern will participate in the annual “Shamrock Ceremony” on March 17 and, with President Bush, will “greet civil society leaders from Northern Ireland who are working to promote peace and tolerance in their community,” the White House said.
Although the $50 million raid on the Northern Bank in Belfast just before Christmas was a serious blow to the IRA’s reputation, it is the death of Robert McCartney in late January that has sent Irish Republicanism into turmoil.
Silence is the norm after an incident such as the fatal beating of Mr. McCartney outside a Dublin bar by a group of suspected IRA members. Of the 72 persons in the bar at the time, none admitted to seeing the incident.
Mr. McCartney’s five sisters have defied the code of silence and demanded justice. They plan to visit Washington next week to call attention to their cause.
Mr. Adams is expected in the United States at the same time, but on a visa that restricts his activities and has forced him to cancel fund-raising events.
“They murdered Robert and we want them punished. We’ll do everything we have to do to make these people answer for what they’ve done,” Paula McCartney, Robert’s sister, told the British newspaper the Mirror last week.
“For every action there is a reaction, and ours is to name and shame the men responsible for murdering a brother, devastating his parents, taking a father away from two wee children and leaving a loving fiancee with her heart and her dreams shattered,” she said. “We’ve no fear of the IRA; they can do no more to me and my family and I think they know now we’ll not be bullied by them.”
In Washington yesterday, a senior Bush administration official said the sisters had not been extended a formal invitation to the White House, “but that may occur, that may very well occur.”
Mr. McCartney, a forklift driver, attempted to stop his friend Brendan Devine from becoming involved in an argument with a group of IRA members in Magennis’ Bar on Jan. 30. He was stabbed in the chest and beaten so badly that he lost an eye and died in a hospital the next day. Mr. Devine’s throat was cut, but he survived.
It was an act of thuggery, which Mr. Adams said has “sullied the Republican cause.”
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