WASHINGTON – Sinn Fein (search) chief Gerry Adams (search) and other Northern Ireland political leaders will not be invited to a St. Patrick's Day luncheon with congressional leaders, another sign that the United States is unhappy over the stalled peace process.
Adams will not be attending the annual St. Patrick's Day (search) luncheon held by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the lawmaker's spokesman Ron Bonjean said Monday.
That follows an announcement last week by the Bush administration that Adams and other Northern Ireland political leaders will not be invited to a St. Patrick's Day ceremony at the White House for the first time since 1995.
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern (search) is expected to be at the White House ceremony to present a traditional bowl of shamrocks to the president.
Sinn Fein is allied with the Irish Republican Army (search), which has come under increasing criticism for recent crimes blamed on the group.
Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., chairman of the Friends of Ireland congressional group (search), said the decision by Hastert shows U.S. elected officials agree on the need to push both sides back to the bargaining table.
"The president made the call not to invite them to the White House, and I think the speaker is right in step with the president. It's disappointing but it shows unanimity," Walsh said.
"I would love to see them at the speaker's luncheon, it's been a grand tradition, but it would be ignoring the fact that there's been a major breakdown in the process," he said.
Walsh blamed the deteriorating relations on recent developments in Ireland, particularly a December bank heist and the January killing of a Belfast man in a bar fight. The IRA has expelled three members over the bar killing and has denied any role in the bank robbery.
Walsh faulted those incidents, and what he said were earlier inflammatory comments by unionist leader Ian Paisley, for stalling any new negotiations.
"Hopefully, this will give people there a sense of how seriously it's being taken by the United States," Walsh said.