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When Irish eyes are smiling

Mark Urban | 16:18 UK time, Thursday, 19 March 2009

President Barack Obama and Irish Prime Minister Brian CowenLooking at the footage of Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen's visit to the White House, I was struck with how lavish the welcome was compared to that afforded to Gordon Brown.

Mr Cowen got the full 'press conference with national flags' that neither Mr Brown or his Japanese counterpart received during their trips, President Obama wore a green tie and even the White House fountain got a green flush.

As for a quiet chat in the Oval Office, this week that honour went to Northern Ireland's First Minister and Deputy First Minister, namely Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness. Well, at least the British Embassy can reflect with pride that our PM beat Sinn Fein to the comfy chairs... just.

"Irish signatures are on our founding documents; Irish blood has been spilled on our battlefields; Irish sweat went into building our greatest cities", said the president.

Vice President Joe Biden meanwhile reminded his audience that British troops had evacuated Boston on 17th March 1776. This gag produced a great deal of laughter - except I imagine at the British embassy. Vice President Biden, we should remember, is spearheading the administration's efforts to improve America's image in the world.

What all of this tells us of course is that Saint Patrick's Day is a huge deal in the US. Some estimates put at 40m the number of Americans claiming Irish ancestry. No president can ignore or snub the Irish at that particular time.

It does though remind us once more of the UK's place in the scheme of things, and how pointless references to the UK/US special relationship sometimes are.


  • Comment number 1.


    The saintly aura of Barack Obama is fading.
    While the stride was still OK, the hand-wave was more of a flap and the once noble lip line lifted to the left in what can only be characterised as the beginnings of a snarl.

    They say: "If it looks too good to be true - it probably is."

    We saw Tony fade to a haunted husk, it took longer but, as Toto will affirm, Wizards are all little blokes when you look behind the facade.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well the boot's on the other foot now. Brown is beginning to learn what Bush already found out - what it means to be a lame duck leader.

    Oh Washington will make the right noises when necessary but take Brown seriously? You must be joking.

  • Comment number 3.

    Let Westminster reflect well !

    The UK is no longer a great nation, a great power or a major influence in the world. (It's just the same as the next country.)

    The proof is demonstrated in many ways, the US/Northern Ireland meetings are just the latest proof.

    Once we stop living the imperial dream, we can adjust our domestic and international policies, and start to live more realistically in the world of today, and with less grandiose budgets.

  • Comment number 4.

    Let's face it Brown is an unelected Prime Minister and credibility is fading fast.
    Yes well the Americans have always loved their Celtic anscestry and Ireland being an Independent Country have the opportunity to play up that. Scotland should also be included in the Celtic anscestry. However we don't yet have a proper voice nor even a seat at the top table in Europe - oh for a change we could really do with it!



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