have not converted a man because you have silenced him.
Irish need apply if they are opposed
GIVE ME your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
For years, Irish Americans waged a bitter war to get Gerry Adams into the country at a time when his positions were much less fashionable than today The apathy of those same activists on the question of visas for their opponents smacks of a "Free speech for me but not for Thee" attitude
This celebrated inscription on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty symbolises America's self-image as a welcoming marketplace of ideas. You will note that nowhere does it require these tired, poor, huddled masses must to support the Good Friday agreement.
Over the past few days, almost every political shade in Ireland has been welcomed to White House luncheons and Capitol Hill cocktail parties.
But one strand of opinion has been noticeable by its enforced absence. Put simply, Islamic fundamentalist terrorist Osama bin Laden might find it easier to gain entry to America than a Republican who has criticised the peace process.
The latest to be turned away is Tommy Gorman, a member of the Irish Republican Writers' Group which has been highly critical of pro-agreement Republicans currently glad-handing their way around the US.
He was scheduled to speak at a Manhattan debate on sectarianism on Friday evening. A few hours before the debate, his visa application was finally refused.
The obvious reason for rejecting Gorman - who served 13 years in prison for IRA activity - holds no water. If a prison record was a disqualifier, then many of the Northern delegation would still be cooling their heels at Dublin airport.
That leaves only one reason - his public criticism of the agreement. The fact that Ian Paisley is welcome suggests that only anti-agreement Republicans are being singled out.
Republican Sinn F�in's Joe O'Neill was removed from a US-bound plane last week. Former hunger striker Marion Price once accompanied Gerry Kelly on a bombing mission to London but is today prevented from following him stateside.
The great American tradition of free discourse demands that whatever argument Mr Gorman advances be challenged on its merits in an open forum. That ideal has been laid waste by the State Department and its supporters among Irish America's thought police.
On Monday, a message was posted on the internet Republican Bulletin Board urging activists to e-mail the consular official dealing with Mr Gorman and demand the visa be denied.
For years, Irish Americans waged a bitter war to get Gerry Adams into the country at a time when his positions were much less fashionable than today. The apathy of those same activists on the question of visas for their opponents smacks of a "Free speech for me but not for Thee" attitude.
The legitimacy of the views put forth by Mr Gorman is irrelevant. Irish America should support his right to speak while reserving the right to object or not to listen.
As of now, those most vocal in demanding parity of esteem appear the least willing to extend it to others.
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