DUP and SF leaders snubbed by White House
THE leaders of Sinn Féin and the DUP have been sidelined by the White House in an apparent rebuff for failing to secure agreement to restore devolution.
Mary Lou McDonald and Arlene Foster have not been invited to join the St Patrick's Day celebrations on Capitol Hill later this week.
However, the Sinn Féin leader's predecessor Gerry Adams and North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley are among those asked to attend Thursday evening's function in the East Room of the White House.
Ms McDonald is currently in the United States as part of a Sinn Féin delegation which includes Mr Adams and the party’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill.
Sinn Féin said the issue of invites to the annual St Patrick's Day celebrations was a "matter for the White House".
"The invite list is being finalised and we are waiting to hear from them later in the week," a party spokesman said.
The DUP confirmed Mrs Foster would not be travelling to the US but said her deputy Nigel Dodds would be in Washington this week, though not necessarily at the White House.
"Mrs Foster has received a number of invitations to meet with key influencers in Washington and New York – she plans to fulfil these later in the year," a spokesman said.
"Mrs Foster has asked DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds MP to attend a number of events in Washington DC including the Speaker’s Lunch on behalf of the party."
One report yesterday claimed Ms McDonald and Mrs Foster had been snubbed by the White House over the failure to secure a deal that would restore devolution.
According to the Irish Times, the decision breaches a long-standing tradition by the White House to invite the leaders of the two parties to the event.
Last year, just a handful of politicians from the north went to Washington DC for what was once one of the key events on the political calender.
During Bill Clinton's presidency in the 1990s, the White House St Patrick's Day reception was attended by the cream of the Irish-American political scene. Even in the Obama era, when Joe Biden's ancestry meant the vice-president took a lead role in the proceedings, Capitol Hill placed great emphasis on celebrating all things Irish.
With Donald Trump in the White House, however, and the momentum of the peace process steadily abating, fewer politicians see a March 17 trip to Washington as a priority.