The now near chaotic political scene in Ireland has cast doubt on how, when, and which government representatives will now participate in the annual Saint Patrick's Day exodus to the US and the White House.

Even the Irish prime ministers annual trip to greet the president with a traditional bowl of shamrocks is in doubt after Brian Cowen announced that the Irish general election will take place just six days beforehand.

Irish ministers traditionally travel around the world during Saint Patrick's week showcasing Ireland as a tourism hot spot (and also as an attractive place to do business). It's an opportunity to highlight the nation that other countries claim to envy.

However, with the climate of political upheaval and with the Irish election date set for March 11, it's unlikely that a new government will be in place to streamline the transition in time.

Cowen's surprise announcement of the election date has been eclipsed by his destabilizing decision to give up leadership of his party but not the post of prime minister. Against such a background of uncertainty it has become impossible to predict who will fulfill the annual travel duties.

A government spokesperson told the press this week that the issue would be a matter for the next government, while the Department of Foreign Affairs, which organizes the trips, claimed not to have an answer.

A spokesperson said it was up to the government of the day and that it wouldn't be appropriate for the department to comment while the situation is developing.

Speculation is mounting in Ireland that opposition leaders and perhaps President Mary McAleese may represent Ireland abroad, with McAleese greeting Barack Obama in the White House on March 17.

One thing is certain, the invitation to the White House will not be declined. The question is who will accept it.