Expectations have been consistent over the past year – indeed have been encouraged by administration sources – that Bush would visit Ireland at some point in the relatively near future.
Reports last February on both sides of the Atlantic indicated the likelihood of an Ireland visit in mid to late summer.
The events of September 11, though clearly important, have not been viewed as being an insurmountable obstacle to a trip to Ireland, one that would probably include a stopover in Britain as well.
Last week’s U.S.-Ireland Business Summit in Washington D.C. might have served as an appropriate platform to announce a presidential flight to Ireland.
There had been hopes that Bush himself would attend the event. In the end he did not.
Questions were asked on an informal level by reporters covering the summit if there was any chance of a Bush visit soon.
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There was no response to indicate that such a visit was imminent.
There have been calls recently from influential Irish Americans for the president to visit Ireland so as to underscore his administration’s stated position that progress towards a last peace in Ireland was in the U.S. national interest.
Rep. James Walsh, chairman of the Friends of Ireland in Congress told the Echo recently that he would strongly encourage President Bush to visit Ireland, north and south.
Walsh, a Republican from Syracuse in upstate New York, viewed such a visit not just in terms of the peace process but as a potential boost for GOP candidates in the upcoming mid-term elections.
Former Boston mayor and U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Ray Flynn earlier wrote Bush saying that the present unsettling situation in the north required the presence of the president as a gesture of concern and support.