ON Monday, March 17, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern and President George Bush exchanged traditional St. Patrick's Day pleasantries at the White House over a green bowl of shamrocks. Ahern spoke of the relationship both countries have enjoyed down through the years. "I believe the U.S. and Ireland will always enjoy an indelible bond shaped by the legacy of countless immigrants who built and cherished their new home but never forgot the land of their ancestors," said Ahern. Bush responded by saying that America is a richer country "for every Murphy, Kelly and O'Sullivan," that makes up the 35 million American who claim Irish ancestry. Ahern also told Bush that he could finally report peace in Northern Ireland. "On so many occasions over the years I wondered whether we could one day return here with news of a process completed, of success finally achieved. This morning, Mr. President, I am enormously pleased, and proud, to stand here and say to you: peace had been achieved in Ireland," Ahern said. Ahern thanked the President for his role in the peace process. "Your personal role in this precious achievement is deeply appreciated, as is the commitment and support of our friends in previous administrations, on Capitol Hill and in our Irish American community," he said.Ahern said there was still more work to be done and he was looking forward to the results. "I am looking forward to the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Executive, as was agreed at St. Andrews. This will be the last piece in the jigsaw that will give us the durable peace and prosperity we have been working for all these years," he said. Bush said the talks he had with the North's First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness recently was a historic moment for him personally and a very important occasion,"I came away with the impression that obviously the United States need to help, and we will, but nothing will happen without the clear conviction and determination of the folks of Northern Ireland," Bush said.Bush added that the U.S. would be sending a delegation to the economic conference in Belfast in May. Ahern met with Senator Hillary Clinton on Monday morning and spoke with Senator Barack Obama by telephone the same day. In Scranton, Pennsylvania on Sunday while attending a Friendly Sons of St. Patrick dinner of Lackawanna County in Dickson County, Ahern addressed the good work Clinton did in the lead up to the peace process offsetting the negative press Clinton has recently received on the issue. "Any fair observation would find that both Hillary and Bill Clinton made peace in Ireland a priority while they were in the White House and after," Ahern said. The taoiseach also attended the annual speaker's luncheon on Capitol Hill hosted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who he invited to Ireland. That evening Ahern attended a reception in his honor at Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Collins' official residence.
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