Ireland's former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Albert Reynolds has revealed how the first official St Patrick's Day visit to the White House nearly became a diplomatic incident.

Reynolds was the first Taoiseach to be invited to the White House for St Patrick's Day at the invitation of then president Bill Clinton.

However, the official trip got off to a stormy start in New York when Reynolds tried to go visit his son who was working as a stockbroker in the city.

The Secret Service, who had been assigned to guard Albert and his wife Kathleen, nearly had a fit when they discovered that the Taoiseach had planned such a trip without notifying them.

In his new autobiography, Reynolds says he was "astonished" at the security arrangements.

"We were escorted to our penthouse suite and advised by the head FBI man that the floor below was completely occupied by his men, as was usual.

"Our son Abbie, who had already moved to New York where he was working as a stockbroker, and was anxious for Kathleen and me to see his new apartment.

"We readily agreed and were about to leave our suite when the FBI man stepped forward, very concerned that such an impromptu visit was not on the agenda," Mr Reynolds writes.

"'It is now', I told him.

"I think Kathleen might have recognised the glint in my eye, because she quickly took control and asked what was expected.

"He explained that, before any visit, the destination premises had to be secured and an advance detail had to totally check the apartment and the team effect a complete sweep for bugs. 'But it's our son's apartment', we argued. 'Sorry, Sir', was the reply."

The stand-off between the Taoiseach and the FBI ended when Reynolds' son Abbie gave the FBI the keys to his apartment so they could do a sweep.

"Apparently, Abbie was regarded with suspicions by his neighbours from then on, as the sight of all those heavyweight FBI men invading his apartment led them to believe the worst," says Reynolds."