Category: Archive

Tight D.C. security to greet visiting Irish dignitaries

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella-Garraty

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Secret Service has decided to keep the White House closed to tourists wishing a glimpse of the inside, and now because of similar post-Sept. 11 security concerns, the taoiseach won’t descend the East Front steps of the Capitol for his usual stroll alongside President Bush at the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

It is just part of tighter security measures, said John Feehery, spokesman for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican.

Even the date is a bit off this year. Because of the taoiseach’s commitment to meetings in Barcelona, Spain, on and around St. Patrick’s Day, Bertie Ahern, along with many government officials and political leaders from Dublin and Belfast, will join their U.S. counterparts here March 13 for the traditional celebrations.

President Bush will receive the traditional bowl of shamrock at the White House next Wednesday, March 13, and will host a small reception afterward. After the years when the Irish and Irish Americans rocked the filled-to-capacity house on St. Patrick’s Day during the Clinton administration, the planned hour-long reception for fewer than 200 guests will be certainly more restrained on this second St. Patrick’s Day celebration for President Bush.

Because of the ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, the White House has limited its festivities and parties. Ahern and Bush will proceed to the Speakers lunch hosted by Hastert. The lunch, started by the late Speaker Tip O’Neill, has been carried on by all his successors. It will include many of the North’s political leaders, including Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, and Northern Ireland’s first minister, David Trimble.

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Instead of exiting down the outside stairs, as has been the case for many years, President Bush, the taoiseach, and the speaker will stroll the marble center of Statuary Hall for their final photo opportunity together.

Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts will meet with Ahern later in the afternoon. At the American Ireland Fund dinner that evening in the Ronald Reagan building, the taoiseach will receive the AIF’s peace award.

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