The final details are in, however, and the long standing Speaker’s Luncheon on Capitol Hill will feature Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and other visiting politicians from Ireland, North and South.
Leading the delegation from the North will be Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who will be talking up the Belfast trade and investment conference in May. The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson will travel in place of First Minister Ian Paisley.
“The conference will be a very important support mechanism. Getting the economy right is absolutely crucial for future stability and growth,” McGuinness told the Echo Tuesday.
He said U.S. support would be a critical underpinning in this effort.
President Bush, meanwhile, will be driven down Pennsylvania Avenue on Monday to join the taoiseach and 120 or so lunch guests of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the Rayburn Room of the Capitol, steps away from Statuary Hall.
Ahern will take the opportunity to press U.S. lawmakers to bolster transatlantic business ties. He will also have his annual meeting with
President Bush at the White House.
One change from past St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will concern the presentation of the shamrock. Most years the greenery is handed over in the West Wing’s Roosevelt Room. This year, if plans hold, the president will receive the symbolic gift in the East Room at the start of the small reception for visiting dignitaries.
Meanwhile, members of the congressional Friends of Ireland caucus will be urging U.S. support for the investment conference slated for the second week of May in Belfast.
The conference will be in the spotlight at the Northern Ireland Bureau’s St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast at the U.S. Chamber of Congress early in the day.
There was some initial confusion over events slated for the evening.
President and Mrs. Bush will host a White House dinner with an Irish theme, but no visiting Irish dignitaries will be involved. It is a dinner in honor of the 250th anniversary of the birth of James Hoban, the Irish architect who designed the White House.
White House special envoy to Northern Ireland, Paula Dobriansky will attend the Hoban dinner and will also make it to the taoiseach’s annual reception at the Irish embassy in honor of the Irish community earlier in the evening. Dobriansky is slated to head the U.S. delegation to the May Belfast conference.
Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward, The SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie, the Alliance Party’s Trevor Lunn, and a Policing Board delegation will travel from Belfast for the Washington events.