‘It’s a decision for the US administration’

The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, will be in Washington tomorrow, but before he left Ireland he talked about some of the available options(RealPlayer req.) he would be discussing with the US adminstration. The media chose which line they preferred to highlight, RTE saying the Government would urge no exclusion from the St Pat’s party, while Irish Times picks up the official line, The question of inviting Sinn Féin leaders to the White House on St Patrick’s Day is strictly a matter for “President Bush and his team”The Irish Times gives us a schedule for further news and a quote from an offical spokesman for the Minister –

At a working lunch in Washington tomorrow, Mr Ahern will brief Dr Reiss about the Government’s position on the crisis in the peace process and the two men will review the latest developments. They will hold a press conference afterwards.

As special envoy, Dr Reiss was heavily involved in attempts at the end of last year to bring about agreement between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party. He is moving from his position as director of policy planning at the US State Department back into academic life but will remain as special envoy for the time being.

On the issue of inviting Sinn Féin leaders to the traditional White House reception on St Patrick’s Day, a spokesman for the Minister said, “Who gets invited to the White House is entirely a matter for President Bush and his team”.

At the weekend though, the Washignton Post carried this editorial (free reg. req.) on the decision facing President Bush –

….

The most important point about the affair, though, is that the governments of Britain and Ireland, which have historically been at odds over Northern Ireland, appear to be in unanimity. The British prime minister, Tony Blair, has stated that he has seen the police evidence on the robbery and believes it is accurate. The Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahearn, has gone further, stating that he believes some of Sinn Fein’s elected officials knew about this robbery and several others in advance. That means they knew about them even while they were conducting disarmament negotiations and even while they spoke with American negotiators, including President Bush, who made a telephone to the protagonists before Christmas.

If nothing else, this news should be enough to destroy any remaining American sentimentality about the IRA, an organization that appears to have successfully transformed itself into not a democratic political party but rather an organized crime syndicate. Although it has become traditional for the U.S. president to hold a reception for Northern Irish politicians on St. Patrick’s Day, Mr. Bush should think hard about whether he wants to have bosses of that syndicate in the White House next month.

There is a clear alternative to invitations going out to all and sundry, or to everyone but Sinn Féin, and that is to host only the Irish Government representatives at the Whitehouse event – an option that may not be the cause of celebration among the President’s speechwriters, but it may be the best option for the US administration to chose.