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St Patrick's Day trippers would serve us better by staying home

Greetings to Mr John E O'Beirne, of Granite Springs Road, Yorktown Heights, New York, USA, for, my dear fellow, we sing this moment - with the feast of St Patrick once more upon us - from the same hymn-sheet.

Mr O'Beirne, you see, has gone public in Dublin on the well-known fact that the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, and our own First Minister Robinson and Deputy McGuinness will meet the American President Obama at the White House on March 17.

Their ostensible purpose, as the fume of explosion clears from Newry, is to discuss progress in the peace process. But Mr O'Beirne will have none of it. "Is there any way to stop this?" he asks.

He confesses that he is tired of the annual ritual of Irish politicians coming to the United States every St Patrick's Day. But he says much more.

"Most of us don't want them here," he bluntly grunts. " We don't want to see their ugly mugs." Sorry Brian, Peter and Martin, but that is what the man said.

And then, to put his disgust beyond doubt, he adds: "It would be much better if they were to stay at home and try to fix their failed economies and their failed states. Millions of us voted with our feet and left the connivers, the petty, the narrow-minded and the indolent behind. If we want to see them, we may visit."

Brother O'Beirne, I have asked before, many times, why this annual non-event continues year-by-year, with its ridiculous, attendant media circus. I have yet to receive an answer. Official sources, I must assume, are - in the current phrase - "not available". You, in your adopted Yankee manner, are rude and direct.

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But I can only admit that we back here have asked for it.

I find the transatlantic procession you deplore a most demeaning spectacle. It reached its apotheosis last year. There was a new President arrived in the White House and there was obvious concern in Dublin (and Stormont?) that he might not be conscious of the wide spectrum of his duties at this season.

So, in good time - it was mid-January - a warning headline appeared in a Dublin newspaper to the effect that the Taoiseach was not thought to have received an invitation to present his bowl of shamrock to the President on St Patrick's Day.

There was more than a suspicion that this might have been planted from sources not a mile from Government Buildings on Merrion Street, for an addendum followed, advising that the Taoiseach would be travelling to the US, invitation or no.

As you know, the annual presentation duly went ahead; although I was a mite nonplussed to see the President, upon receiving the said bowl from Mr Cowen, immediately handing it back to the Taoiseach. I wonder was the President, in this mute and inoffensive manner, saying something to his guest?

Come the Fourth of July, Obama and his circle are well aware it would be unthinkable if they were to be found anywhere else but on Pennsylvania Avenue, standing by to lead the nation in the commemoration of its creation. And that is where they will be.

Ten days later, Paris will go en fete for Bastille Day. The US now bestrides the world and the French have a string of colonies and ex-colonies from Quebec and New Caledonia, in the Pacific, to what was once Indo-China, not to mention vast tracts of Africa. But it would ill-behove President Sarkosy if he were not on hand to take the salute at the annual parade along the Champs Elysees.

Make no mistake, it is the representatives of the Irish, north and south, who are the oddballs, pestering a lot of busy people abroad with the detail of our domestic affairs.

So, I am with you all the way, Mr O'Beirne. Even if you are a bit hard on the old sod, its dust, I fear, now well shaken from your boots.


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