St. Patrick’s Day, 2009
First of all, let me say this for the record. St. Patrick’s Day ought to be a national holiday.
I don’t plan to work today, although something will come up, as it always does.
My favorite St. Patrick’s Days were when I worked for the Speaker, and he hosted the Speaker’s St. Patrick’s Day lunches. All the political leaders, including the president, came to the lunch. The prime minister of Ireland and the Speaker gave a toast, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) would hawk his new book, the president would give remarks, and then we would have live entertainment.
One year, the president couldn’t come and the vice president came instead. A couple of days later, we invaded Iraq. (Maybe the president should have come anyway.)
We had some great entertainers. We had the Corrs. They were very lovely, if a bit on the tiny side. The Chieftains came, and they started drinking fairly early in the morning. Same with the Saw Doctors.
It was hard to get Irish acts to come after we invaded Iraq. The Irish didn’t like Bush too much.
My wife and I got married in Ireland in 2003. We had a great time, but some got into tough arguments with our Irish brethren.
I remember once getting into a fairly rough argument in the pub of the Irish Parliament. They called America bullies. I was happy to point out to my Irish friends that Ireland was neutral in the war against Hitler, so their track record on taking out dictators wasn’t that strong. Like I said, pretty rough.
When Clinton came to the Speaker’s lunch, it was great, because you could tell that he got the Irish politics, and you could tell that he loved his pint of Guinness. Bush didn’t get the Irish politics, and he gave up drinking, so he wasn’t that much fun to be around.
I always had a pint or two at the lunch. I probably shouldn’t have, given that I was only a staffer. But what the hell.
We went to Ireland on the one-year anniversary of the Good Friday Accords. We had a dinner with the Speaker and Bertie Ahearn, probably the best natural politician I have ever met (better than Clinton). I thought it would have been good to visit Ireland on that day, but then I found out that all the pubs were closed in honor of the holiday. I got some grief for that.
During my time in the House, Ireland’s economy roared into a Celtic Tiger, and the Irish peace process made dramatic strides. Now, the Celtic Tiger is more of a sick little pussycat, and the peace process is facing its greatest challenge, from the bad economy and extremists who want to reinvigorate the drug trade on the island. So far, Martin McGuiness and Gerry Adams have risen to the challenge, making tough statements against the Provos and impressing their Protestant colleagues with their courage.
Ireland’s economic collapse is troubling. The hope is that their good fortune over the last decade won’t disappear completely. Ireland has made tremendous strides as a leader within Europe and as a good friend of the United States. This St. Patrick’s Day is full of foreboding for an unsettled future.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.