By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — British Prime Minister Tony Blair is set to score a historic double on Nov. 24 when he will address a joint session of the Oireachtas.
Blair will not only be the first British prime minister to address a joint meeting of the Dail and Seanad but also the first person who is not a head of state to be accorded the distinction of speaking to both houses in simultaneous session.
On his first visit as prime minister to Dublin last June, Blair said that he would be honored to accept the invitation from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
The invitation came in the wake of the negotiation of the peace agreement in Northern Ireland involving the two leaders.
It was agreed to by the Dail’s Committee on Procedure and Privileges and has led to a change of protocol.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
Previously, only heads of state, like U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy, President Mitterand of France, Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany, and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, were given the privilege of a joint session of both houses.
Australian Prime Ministers Paul Keating and Bob Hawke only addressed the 166-member Dail.
As British Commonwealth leaders, neither man was head of state — that position is held by Queen Elizabeth. The same is the case with Blair.