IRA Leader Arrives in New York on ‘Private Visit’
NEW YORK (AP) _ A leader of the Irish Republican Army flew to New York on Tuesday after the United States granted a rare waiver of its ban against those linked to the outlawed group’s acts of terror.
″It’s a private visit,″ said Joseph Cahill before he walked to a car in the parking lot and was driven away.
Cahill and Patrick Treanor, a member of Sinn Fein, the IRA’s legal, political wing, were issued limited, single-entry visas Tuesday ″to enable Sinn Fein officials to garner support in the United States for an end to the violence in Northern Ireland,″ said State Department spokesman Mike McCurry.
Cahill planned to speak to Irish-American activists later in the week, said a congressional staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity.
There were no plans for the two to meet with U.S. officials.
The 74-year-old Cahill, a leader of the IRA’s provisional wing, arrived amid reports that the IRA was on the verge of calling a cease-fire in its long fight to oust the British from Northern Ireland.
Stepping off an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin at Kennedy International Airport, Cahill was met by half a dozen unidentified people and exited quickly through a side door of the terminal with a woman on each side, holding his arm and hand.
It was not clear whether Treanor arrived with him, but Richard McAuley, spokesman for Sinn Fein in Belfast, said Treanor was traveling with Cahill.
Cahill is the most senior IRA-related figure to visit the United States since Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams made a two-day visit in February - also on a limited visa. Mitchel McGlaughlin, Sinn Fein’s northern chairman, visited Cleveland and Washington in May.
Adams said Monday that he had met with IRA leaders and told them the time was right for an end of the violence.
A U.S. official who asked not to be named said Cahill was issued a special waiver of a rule that barred him from entry because of a criminal past. He has been convicted of killing a police officer, of gunrunning and membership in the IRA.
Adams had never been convicted of a criminal offense.
The official said President Clinton’s decision to grant the visa was discussed with Irish and British officials beforehand. The official refused to say whether the countries signed off on the decision.
Peter Reid, a spokesman for the British consulate in New York, said only, ″It’s a matter for U.S. authorities who they issue visas to.″
The provisional wing of the IRA, the ″provos,″ was founded 25 years ago, long after the Irish Republic gained its independence. It has been responsible for many acts of terrorism in its effort to force Britain to relinquish control of Northern Ireland.
Cahill was deported from the United States in 1984 for illegal entry after being accused of lying about his past. He said his convictions resulted from political, not criminal, activity.
He was convicted in 1942 with four other men of killing a police officer in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but won a reprieve from a death sentence. In 1973 he was convicted in Dublin of bringing a shipload of weapons from Libya for the IRA.
Treanor has been involved in Sinn Fein campaigns to open up border crossings that have been blocked by Northern Ireland authorities. He was showing Swedish journalists one such crossing July 15 when he was arrested by the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
As police were taking Treanor to their station, IRA gunmen opened up on the car, wounding Treanor and some of the officers. Treanor subsequently had a finger amputated.