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Irish Nationalist Leader Downplays White House Snub

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams says he does not feel slighted by President Bush, despite failing to receive an invitation to the White House during a visit to the United States last week.

It had become an annual tradition: inviting leaders and dignitaries from Northern Ireland to the White House on Saint Patrick's Day, which honors Ireland's patron saint.

But last Thursday Gerry Adams was kept at arm's length by the president. Mr. Bush met instead with the five sisters of a Belfast man, Robert McCartney, who was allegedly killed by members of the Irish Republican Army in January.

Mr. Adams, who heads the political wing of the paramilitary group, spoke on ABC's This Week program.

"I do not feel snubbed," said Gerry Adams. "And if the dis-invite of the Irish parties meant a stepping back from the [peace] process by the Bush administration, I would be very concerned. But it does not."

U.S. officials have urged Sinn Fein to cut ties with the IRA, which has waged a bloody campaign against British rule of Northern Ireland. British authorities say Northern Ireland's faltering peace process cannot resume until the outlawed paramilitary group halts criminal activity. In addition to the McCartney slaying, the IRA has been accused of carrying out a massive bank robbery to finance its activities.

But Gerry Adams says facts are being twisted to suit the aims of Sinn Fein's foes.

"Opponents of Sinn Fein will seize upon five or six articulate, good-looking, smart, young Irish women who are making this case, and who are fighting for justice for their brother and they will use that to try to tar us, Sinn Fein," said Gerry Adams. "The IRA did not kill their brother. Some rogue individual, IRA volunteers who have been drummed out of that organization killed their brother."

Mr. Adams says those who murdered Robert McCartney should face justice. Following the killing the IRA expelled some of its members. It also offered to shoot the men who killed Robert McCartney. But his family says "only in a court will the truth come out."

The McCartney sisters say witnesses of the incident, which took place in a crowded pub, are terrified of IRA reprisals if they testify.

A framework for semi-autonomous rule in Northern Ireland was part of the so-called Good Friday agreement reached in 1998. But the government was suspended in 2002 amid allegations of IRA interference in the political process and its refusal to disarm, a key point of the peace agreement.