The president himself made it clear that he stood by the wishes of the great majority of voters in Northern Ireland that there should be a return to power-sharing government by the March 26 deadline.
The White House also threw its doors open to a more eclectic mix of visitors than heretofore. The inclusion on the guest list of Raymond McCord Sr. was a most welcome move.
McCord, as a leading voice in the Relatives for Justice group, has emerged as an outstanding spokesman for all victims of collusion in Northern Ireland and even took the opportunity to speak out on behalf of Malachy McAllister, whose fight for an American life for himself and his children has taken on the air of an epic. During the White House gathering, President Bush took a moment to shake hands with Geraldine Finucane, widow of slain attorney Patrick Finucane. This, too, was a powerful and welcome gesture.
“Just as Irish-Americans have stood in solidarity with the Finucanes, we will stand with the McCords, and we will not let any case of collusion slip through the cracks. Both the Finucanes and the McCords are the first to emphasize that their cases are merely the tip of the iceberg and both want all the other cases given due attention.”
This comment by the Rev. Sean McManus, who was seen at one point discussing issues with Ian Paisley Jr., another visitor, pretty well summed up the feelings of all who want to get to the bottom of the sordid and murderous collusion story.
That process can only be aided by the active participation of Irish America and the administration. And last week in Washington was certainly that: active and productive.
Once again it was clearly demonstrated that differences that can appear unbridgeable in Northern Ireland suddenly seem far narrower, and less insoluble, when addressed in the shadow of the fluttering stars and stripes.