The US State Department visa policy “visits the sins of the fathers upon the sons (and daughters)” of ex-prisoners of Ireland's Troubles, says the Ancient Order of  Hibernians. 

Part of the foundational ethos of the United States is that individuals are treated based on their merits; rejecting the Old World concepts of royalty and aristocracy where a person is judged based on who their parents were. That American belief was a beacon of hope to the thousands of Irish who came to America in search of being able to achieve their full potential, and America has benefited incalculably from their energy and drive. 

It is therefore extremely disconcerting to learn that the US Department of State has repudiated this core American value in the denial of visas to the children and grandchildren of participants in Northern Ireland’s Troubles (see BBC News: 'Ex-prisoners' children 'discriminated against' in US travel').  It is truly a case of “the sins of the fathers being visited upon the sons (and daughters)”.

The release of prisoners from both sides of the conflict was a crucial part of the Good Friday Agreement.  Their release and subsequent commitment to the peace process has been pivotal to the two decades of peace which the north of Ireland has enjoyed.  It is therefore counterproductive, and unquestionably unjust, to deny travel visas to young men and women born years after the conflict because of who their parents or grandparents were. 

These actions by the US State Department are particularly inexplicable given that new evidence is revealing the true nature of the conflict in Northern Ireland; that it was not criminal activity, but a Civil War with the British government not an impartial agent of law-and-order, but an active, partisan, combatant. Many of those convicted for offenses during the Troubles were done so under proceedings which would not be recognized in any civilized courts of law. For the State Department to perpetuate this inequity to an innocent second and third generation twenty years after the signing of an internationally recognized peace agreement is the epitome of injustice and a denial of America’s core values.

The Hibernians are further disappointed that the US consulate has refused to offer an explanation as to why visas are being denied these young descendants of the participants of the troubles, a violation of basic accountability and transparency. 

The Ancient Order of Hibernians call upon Secretary of State Pompeo and Ambassador Woody Johnson to investigate why their staff is denying visas to young Irish men and women because of events which they themselves have only read about. 

We call upon the Secretary and the Ambassador to correct this injustice and take another step forward to the peace promised by the US-brokered Good Friday Agreement.


Founded in 1836 with some 40,000 members covering 40 states, the Ancient Order of Hibernians is the oldest and largest Irish-Catholic Organization in the United States.