Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was delayed at a Washington-area airport on Friday for a secondary security screening, a Homeland Security Department official said.
Adams had been scheduled to fly from Washington’s Reagan National Airport to Buffalo, New York, for St. Patrick’s Day appearances with Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins of New York but was unable to make the trip because of the airport delay, said Teresa Kennedy, a spokeswoman for the congressman.
Earlier on Friday, Adams, along with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and other Irish leaders, attended a meeting at the White House with President Bush.
A Homeland Security official declined to comment when asked if Adams’ name had appeared on a terror watch list. Sinn Fein is a political ally of the Irish Republican Army guerrilla group, which has sought to end British rule in Northern Ireland.
“There are privacy restrictions that preclude us from talking about individuals on no-fly lists,” the official said.
In a statement, Higgins said Adams’ name indeed appeared on a terror watch list.
“This is a man who has dedicated the past 25 years of his life to promoting peace and the unification of the 32 counties of Ireland into one united republic,” Higgins said. “That his name would appear in this untoward manner and that appearance, in the end, ruined his ability to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Buffalo is sad and unfortunate when one considers Gerry Adams’ leadership in the decommissioning of the IRA’s weapons and his commitment to the Good Friday agreements.”
The Homeland Security official told Reuters that as Adams “was traveling to Buffalo, he was routinely going through (standard security screening) and he had a very thorough secondary screening."
“He was never arrested and he was never detained from the department’s perspective,” said the Homeland Security official, who declined to be named.
The official declined to explain why Adams underwent the secondary screening.