Gerry Adams Held at Airport, Misses Flight

By Michael Alison Chandler and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 18, 2006

Gerry Adams, head of the Irish Republican Army's political wing, said he was held so long by airport security in Washington yesterday that he missed a flight to a speaking engagement -- on St. Patrick's Day -- leaving him "very disappointed."

Adams was at the White House yesterday to mark the day.

Adams said the screeners were "only doing their job," and he appreciates the need for vigilance. Yet, he said, the intensive nature of the scrutiny to which he said he is subjected routinely "seems very unfair."

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) said Adams was scheduled to arrive in Buffalo at 6:30 p.m. to speak before hundreds of people at a rally at the Buffalo Irish Center. "He's in big demand, particularly on St. Patrick's Day," Higgins said.

A Department of Homeland Security official said he understood that after screening at the standard checkpoint, Adams was sent to a secondary checkpoint. There was "questioning involved," the official said, as well as "thorough inspection of baggage" and of his person.

Eventually, the official said, Adams was cleared and went on.

The Irish Republican Army has waged an armed campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland. It scrapped its arsenal last year in what was hailed as a key step toward ending decades of violence. Its political wing is Sinn Fein.

Adams said he conferred here with State Department officials yesterday and arrived at the airport about two hours early. It was not clear last night which of Washington's airports was involved.

An aide to Adams said airport computers had "security tags" for Adams and another member of his party. By the time things were sorted out, she said, they were told it was too late to board.

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