BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: UK: Northern Ireland
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Monday, 17 December, 2001, 21:39 GMT
Sinn Fein leader arrives in Havana
Mr Adams is expected to meet Fidel Castro
Mr Adams is expected to meet Fidel Castro
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has begun a controversial three-day visit to Cuba.

Mr Adams, who arrived on Monday, is to hold talks with the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, and with members of the Cuban Government during the trip.

The Sinn Fein delegation will also unveil a monument in memory of the republican hunger strikers who died in 1981.

Ten men died in the Maze prison H-blocks hunger strike two decades ago as republican prisoners fought to get political status.

Gerry Kelly
Gerry Kelly: A member of the Sinn Fein delegation

On Sunday, the West Belfast MP said he wanted to acknowledge President Castro's support for the hunger strike.

The timing of the meeting between the two men has not been disclosed.

North Belfast assembly member Gerry Kelly is accompanying the Sinn Fein leader on the trip.

The visit comes after Sinn Fein's representative in Cuba, Niall Connolly, was one of three republicans arrested in Colombia in August.

On the first day of his visit, Mr Adams called for all three to be released.

The West Belfast MP - who met Jose R Dalaguer Cabrera - one of President Fidel Castro's closest aides in the Communist Party in Havana - confirmed that he had raised the arrests.

Internal investigation

Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan were charged with training Marxist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC, in explosives and urban terrorism.

Sinn Fein initially denied that Mr Connolly was a party official.

But Mr Adams later confirmed that an internal investigation revealed one of the party's senior members had asked Niall Connolly to represent Sinn Fein in Cuba".

Mr Adams said proper procedures had not been employed in the appointment of Mr Connolly.

He said they had since been reviewed to ensure that this "unfortunate situation" did not arise again.

He said on Monday: "We raised, I raised, the issue of the three Irishmen in prison in Colombia, and our view that they should be released."

Mr Adams said the Cubans did not make any statement on the arrests of the men.

"It wasn't really a matter for them speaking out.

"It was me raising the issue, as I have in support of the prisoners' families."


The arrest of the trio in Bogotá for travelling on false passports led to calls for Sinn Fein to be excluded from the Northern Ireland Assembly.

SDLP chairman Alex Attwood said the timing of Mr Adams' visit to Cuba was wrong.

"In the aftermath of September 11 the visit is, at the very least, considered ill-timed and ill-judged," he said.

"The fallout from Colombia and Cuba will be substantial and enduring, in America and in Ireland."

Mr Adams' trip to Havana is going ahead despite concern in the United States about the merits of the visit.

Earlier this week, Peter King, a Republican congressman, said he thought the visit was a "mistake".

The delegation is expected to return to Northern Ireland on Thursday.

Mr Adams will also visit the Juan Marquez Hospital and the Latin American School of Medical Sciences.

BBC NI's Mark Simpson reports from Havana
"As yet, no time or place has been confirmed for the meeting with Mr Castro"
Republican Congressman Pete King
"This visit undermines Sinn Fein's position on human rights"
The BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Havana
reports on the coverage of Gerry Adams' visit in Cuba's press
See also:

22 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
SF link to Colombia arrest man
23 Aug 01 | Americas
US warning on IRA suspects
17 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Who are IRA suspects?
22 Aug 01 | Americas
'IRA' men in notorious prison
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Northern Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Northern Ireland stories