Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mandela's Example for Gerry Adams

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mandela's Example for Gerry Adams

Article excerpt

Nelson Mandela, president of South Africa, came to town last week to fill the grandeur gap, which widens by the day.

The noble and elegant former convict received full military honors at the White House and a state dinner where the guests shucked their world-weariness to stand and adore. The wife of Marion Barry, Washington's once and future mayor, gratingly compared her once-jailed husband to the great martyr: "There's definitely a connection," she burbled. Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke was just one of many who couldn't draw the parallel.

Gerry Adams, another former terrorist, turned up at approximately the same time - to the great exasperation of the British. One of them asked a diplomatic reporter, not entirely facetiously, if Adams, spokesman for Sinn Fein, the so-called political arm of the IRA, would be getting equal official honors.

Adams was a prickly guest. He turned down a State Department appointment with an official of insufficient rank. After strenuous gyrations, the White House, which wants to foster the miraculous and fragile flower of peace, produced a telephone call from Vice President Al Gore and a rendezvous with the deputy assistant secretary for European affairs.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, as a member of the famous Four Horsemen, the congressional quartet of Irish-Americans, spent some 20 years warning Americans to spurn the IRA and its seductive spokesman. But on Oct. 2, the senator greeted Adams at the Boston airport at the start of a coast-to-coast tour. Adams, a tall, bearded man, smiles a lot. He is silky, turning surly only when asked about fronting for an organization that shot fathers on their front doorsteps, sometimes in the sight of their children.

"I regret that," says Adams in the broad Belfast brogue, and slides into a supposedly exculpatory description of his days as a non-violent civil rights agitator, when civility got him nothing.

The granting of a visa to Adams last February was, before Haiti, President Bill Clinton's boldest foreign policy move. He was put up to it by Kennedy, who was convinced by John Hume, leader of the Northern Irish Catholic Party, that with a boost from the United States, Adams could persuade the IRA's "hard men" that it was time to try politics. …

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