DUBLIN -- Just as Senator Edward M. Kennedy vowed not to meet with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams on St. Patrick's Day, one of the movement's top supporters in the US Congress called yesterday for the Irish Republican Army to disband because it was standing in the way of peace in Northern Ireland.
In a major departure, Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, who for more than two decades has been an ardent supporter of the Sinn Fein-IRA campaign, accused the outlawed IRA of making a string of bad decisions that have fueled hostility within Irish-American circles.
His comments came as Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said he would not meet with Adams on St. Patrick's Day -- the first time the two will not have met on the traditional Irish holiday since the Good Friday peace pact was signed seven years ago.
In a statement, Kennedy's spokeswoman Melissa Wagoner cited ''the IRA's ongoing criminal activity and contempt for the rule of law" as the reason for Kennedy's decision.
Adams, head of the political party affiliated with the Irish Republican Army, traveled to the United States this weekend to seek support from Irish-American activists. His visit came amid outrage over IRA involvement in the killing of a Catholic man outside a pub in Belfast.
The Bush administration did not invite Adams to the White House on St. Patrick's Day, the first time since 1995 he did not get the invitation.
The White House has invited the sisters of the man killed at the pub for St. Patrick's Day.
The victim's five sisters, in a rare rebellion within Sinn Fein's working-class Catholic grass roots, have campaigned publicly against intimidation of witnesses and the Sinn Fein-IRA movement's opposition to cooperation with the police. Sinn Fein and the IRA, which initially denied any involvement, have suspended or expelled 10 members linked to the killing.
King said the IRA's implication in the Jan. 30 knife slaying of Robert McCartney in Belfast caused much disgust among rank-and-file American backers of Sinn Fein.
McCartney, 33, was attacked in a crowded pub and had his throat slit outside, but none of approximately 70 witnesses -- including at least one Sinn Fein election candidate and several other party activists -- has been willing to identify the attackers.
And the IRA, in its latest attempt to defuse criticism of its members' involvement, announced last week it was willing to kill four people it considers responsible.
King said IRA leaders' offer to execute people, which caused widespread outrage in Britain and Ireland, demonstrated ''how tone-deaf they are."