LONDON -- The head of Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein Party accused President Clinton yesterday of undercutting peace efforts by branding the party leader a terrorist and denying him a visa to the United States.
Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Finn, the legitimate political arm of the outlawed Provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army, said President Clinton had damned him with "black propaganda." He said he would appeal Washington's continued refusal of a visa to enter the United States.
Mr. Clinton's decision to deny a visa to Mr. Adams was disclosed by the Irish Times yesterday when it published the president's Oct. 30 letter to David N. Dinkins, then involved in a losing re-election bid for mayor of New York.
Mr. Clinton said "credible evidence" linked Mr. Adams with an IRA strategy of terror at the highest level of planning.
Mr. Dinkins had sought permission to invite Mr. Adams to New York at the urging of pro-IRA Irish-Americans.
Mr. Adams outraged Britain when he appeared as a pallbearer for an IRA member killed Oct. 23 in the premature explosion of a bomb he allegedly planted in a Belfast fish shop. Nine other people, including two children were killed in the blast.
Mr. Clinton said that the bombing "underscored the political nature of the [IRA] and undermined efforts to resume political dialogue among the parties." He said neither the British nor Irish government favor granting Mr. Adams a visa.
Mr. Adams said Mr. Clinton's assertions were based on "lies concocted by the British."
Mitchel McLaughlin, Sinn Fein's chairman, said he was "very disappointed" with Mr. Clinton's letter.
"I predict that he will change his position as he moves up to the second half of his term and he starts to open up a re-election
campaign," he said.
Sinn Fein denies links with IRA violence. Speaking in a small recital hall in central London, Mr. McLaughlin, a Sinn Fein activist for 25 years, said his party has been "engaged in a non-armed, peaceful, political program over that period."
"I feel the British government has an historic opportunity," said Mr. McLaughlin. "I believe [British Prime Minister] John Major is blinded, regrettably, to that opportunity."
"If he remains blind, it's possible to envision at least another 25 years of the slaughter and pain and trauma the Irish people have gone through."
Mr. Adams and John Hume, head of the Social Democratic and Labor Party in Northern Ireland, met last month to work out a peace process whose details remains secret. Announcement of the Hume-Adams plan sparked new peace hopes in Britain, the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.
The British and Irish governments have since renewed their more official peace talks. Both governments have praised Mr. Hume, but distanced themselves from his initiative and have rebuffed Mr. Adams.
But Mr. McLaughlin said the substantive issues and the process contained in the Humes-Adams initiative provides the basis for peace.
"There is a real opportunity for a peace process now," Mr. McLaughlin said. "That opportunity will not last forever and it will not be satisfied by mere formulations of words, by rhetoric or by Pax Britannica."
He charged that Prime Minister Major's dependency on Unionists for a Tory majority in Parliament "is dictating the British government's attitude toward peace."
He cited a poll in the Guardian newspaper Tuesday which said that only 18 percent of the British believe Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom and that 59 percent think Sinn Fein or the IRA should take part in peace talks.
"British public opinion is running ahead of the British government," Mr. McLaughlin said.
The Democratic Unionist Party, led by the Rev. Ian R. K. Paisley, offered its own peace plan for Northern Ireland yesterday. The DUP is the party most rigorously committed to keeping Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.
Mr. Paisley said Prime Minister Major found his ideas interesting.