Early indications are that if you’re thinking about tripping the light fantastic after dark this St. Patrick’s Day, give the White House a wide berth.
In recent years — though not in Bill Clinton’s first couple of years as president — the executive mansion was turned into Ireland central as the big day faded into rosy twilight. Almost as much as his three visits to Ireland, the opening of the White House doors to Irish America on this night of nights became a potent symbol of Clinton’s commitment to change in Ireland.
For a number of reasons, however, the White House this St. Patrick’s night looks like it may be a quiet place. Indeed, there are signs that there might be about as much green-tinged activity in the building this year as you would expect in an Orange Order hall in Larne. If this turns out to be the case, it would be premature to read too much into any absence of revelry. The Bush administration is in its early days and, as with Clinton’s, it will take time to get the measure of foreign policy issues in which the U.S. plays a role. In addition, St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday this year and many politicians will have left Washington for their home states, some even to take part in parades in their own political backyards.
But if there’s more to policy than a party, there’s as much a need to inject new life into a policy than a political hooley. With that in mind, we hope President Bush takes the opportunity of his March 16 meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to underscore his campaign commitment to keep Ireland front and center on his foreign policy priority list. He could also send the right signals in his first State of the Union speech, a wish strongly expressed in the Irish American GOP letter to the president reported in these pages last week. At the end of the day, St. Patrick’s Day included, a party can wait. But a lasting peace with justice in Ireland most assuredly must not.