BY CECILIA BROMLEY-MARTIN
TtiERE wile. HE A shadow cast over the usual St Patrick's Day festivities in Washington this Sunday, caused by the collapse of the IRA ceasefire in Northern Ireland.
The type of entertainment which characterised the event in 1995 would not be appropriate in the present circumstances, according to one senior administration official. Prayers for peace are now to replace the lively festivities that were so much in evidence last year.
"By joining in prayer on March 17, Americans will be offering spiritual and moral support to the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland who yearn to be free from violence, and to build a lasting and just peace," said a recent statement from the US religious leaders.
"We urge Americans to offer special prayers on this day for an end to violence and progress toward peace in Northern Ireland."
The breakdown in the IRA ceasefire has also resulted in the exclusion of Gerry Adams from this year's White House celebrations.
Last year, President Clinton's party ended with Mr Adams and the SDLP leader, John Hume, singing together about Derry: The Town I Love So Well. But this year, although the President stuck his political neck out in giving Mr Adams a new US visa three weeks ago, it ruled that he could not visit the White House.
The Sinn Fein leader will therefore not number among the guest list of 550, which is believed to include all other Northern Ireland party leaders, including David Trimble, Ulster Unionist Party leader, and Mr Hume. The party will be held in honour of the Taoiseach, Mr Bruton, and his wife, Mrs Finola Bruton.
Meanwhile, Mr Adams this week
received the Irish American of the Year award in New York front Irish America magazine.
Yet Irish Americans remain unsure as to how to react to Mr Adams' presence in the US, and the White House, like most Irish American politicians, still sees him as a key peacemaker. "We think he's helpful and we want to see whether or not he can help put the ceasefire back in place," one senior administration official said.
However, Gerry Adams carefully spared Bill Clinton from potential embarrassment earlier this week when he arrived in the States too late to attend the glamorous annual Speakers' lunch. It was at this event a year ago that he first shook hands with the President.
The Sinn Fein leader will continue to walk a political tightrope throughout this visit as he desperately needs Mr Clinton's public support and accordingly must not risk embarrassing him.