[Sinn Fein]

23rd April 2002

Adams responds to Hyde Invitation

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP speaking at a press conference in Belfast this afternoon said:

``Let me begin by saying at the outset that I have written to Henry Hyde, the Chairperson of the Committee on International Relations, declining his invitation to attend the Committee on International Relations Hearing.

I have offered to meet the Committee the next time I am in Washington.

My priorities in approaching this important matter have been to defend the peace process, to defend Sinn Fein's essential contribution to it, and to give proper consideration to the plight of the three men presently in detention in Colombia, their right to a fair trial and the anxieties of their families.

I have received legal advice from the lawyers representing the three men in Colombia. It argues that the Congressional hearings and my presence at them may well be prejudicial to any possibility of a fair trial.

It is also my view that the hearings are only co-incidentally about Ireland. They are essentially about the relationship between the USA and Colombia. These matters are for the governments of these two countries.

I am satisfied with the IRA statement of September 19th last year in which the IRA leadership made it clear that it `sent no one to Colombia to train or to engage in any military cooperation with any group.'

Crucially, the IRA asserted that it `has not interfered in the internal affairs of Colombia and will not do so. And it went on, `the IRA is not a threat to the peace process in Ireland or in Colombia.'

In my conversations with US officials and with political representatives 1 have made it clear that Irish republicans, whether as ordinary citizens or as activists have no desire to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

We have a desire to learn from other conflict resolution processes and if possible to be helpful to those who want to build peace.

Irish republicans pose no threat to US National Security interests in Colombia.

Anyone who observes our record and our role in the peace process will know our commitment to peace in our own country and throughout the world is steadfast.''

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