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May 22, 2005

Action Alert: Rita O'Hare Denied

To: Irish Northern Aid Contact List
From: Gerry Coleman, Political Education Dept
Date: 22 May 2005
Action Alert - Rita O'Hare, Sinn Fein Rep to US,
Denied Travel Visa

1] Background

On Thursday, May 19th, the Sinn Fein Representative to the United
States was denied access to this country on the basis of what is, at
most, a technicality.

A Political Decision? Whose Politics?

Rita O'Hare has facilitated dialog and information sharing between
Irish American organizations, concerned US Citizens, US government
officials, Members of Congress, and the Press in the US regarding the
Irish peace process and Sinn Fein's position regarding the peace
process for nearly 7 years without negative incident. This effort has
been invaluable in helping to moving the democratic process forward.

Denial of US Visas to visitors to the US for legitimate and important
purposes -- invited by and found valuable to US citizens, government,
and organizations -- is a violation of the right of Americans to free
speech, the free expression of varying points of view, and denial of
the flow of information to American decision makers.

If, as has been reported, the cause of this action is a minor
transgression or technicality [The Irish Times reports the reason
being used to justify the decision is a change of venue for an already
scheduled meeting with a responsible American leader concerned with
moving forward the Irish peace process], then the HARM to American
citizens and decision makers' right to Freedom of Speech and
Information surely outweighs the desire to penalize for a minor,
technical, and HARMLESS transgression.

Rita O'Hare is the Sinn Fein Representative to the US. Would a
diplomat of equal stature and importance be denied access to the
United States for a technicality? Or are there political strings
being pulled?

It has been noted that Ms. O'Hare was issued two visas to travel here
AFTER the supposed violation took place.

If the Visa Denial was separated from the supposed cause by two
subsequent visas and many months, a reasonable observer would question
the nature of the real cause/effect relationship. Were there requests
from other parties [foreign?] to impose this penalty upon Sinn Fein
for political reasons? It seems reasonable to assume that if a US
federal agency had a problem with the supposed transgression, it would
have acted soon after it happened.

In any case, the PENALTY, for whatever the cause, is being paid by
American Citizens, the US Bill of Rights and the Irish Peace Process,
and is certainly unwarranted by the facts.

2] Press Release

Concern At US Decision To Refuse Visa Waiver

21 May 2005

Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness and party representative
to the US Rita O'Hare met the US Ambassador to Ireland, James Kenny
this morning to update him on the peace process.

Mr. McGuinness, who is due to travel to the US next week, said that
the party is concerned at the refusal to grant a visa waiver to party
representative Rita O'Hare for this trip.

Mr. McGuinness said: "This morning Rita O'Hare and I met the US
Ambassador James Kenny to update him on the peace process and to
discuss the need for intensive efforts to get the process back on

"Sinn Fein believes that there is now a real opportunity to complete
the work of bringing about a lasting peace in Ireland. We have been in
contact with the Irish and British governments and the White House in
recent days to get the process back on track. And I am due to travel
to the US next week to meet with the US Administration, members of
Congress and Irish American organizations.

"We are concerned, however, at the refusal to grant a visa waiver to
party representative Rita O'Hare who has been traveling to the US for
almost seven years promoting the peace process, regularly meeting with
US politicians and Irish America.

"Huge concern has been expressed by our friends in the US at the
decision and many members of Congress have voiced their protest to US
Envoy Mitchell Reiss and the State Department.

"According to a report in the Irish Times the reason being used to
justify the decision is a change of venue for an already scheduled
meeting with someone who is a key player in securing peace and
democracy in Ireland. It is worth noting that since January Ms O'Hare
has applied for and received two visa waivers to visit the US in March
and April.

"I welcome the State Department's statement that there has been no
change in policy with regard to Sinn Fein." ENDS

3] Contact Information US Administration:

* Dr Mitchell Reiss,
Director of Policy Planning,
US Department of State,
2201 C Street NW,
Washington DC 20520
Main switchboard @ Policy Planning [202] 647-5225
Email direct to Dr. Reiss:

Irish Government:
* Ambassador Noel Fahey
Embassy of Ireland,
2234 Mass Ave NW,
Washington DC 20008
Phone [202] 232-3993;
Fax [202] 232-5993
Email direct to:

US Congress:
* All Members of the House and Senate can be reached through the main
Congressional switchboard: [202] 224-3121
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