St Patrick's Day: Wounded police officer among White House guests

The White House Victims and dealing with the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland are likely to feature as themes for this year's St Patrick's Day events at the White House

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A policeman who was injured in a knife attack at a sectarian flashpoint in Belfast is among guests invited to the White House to mark St Patrick's Day.

The officer suffered facial wounds in the attack in a Crumlin Road bar.

It happened while officers were responding to a report of an assault at Twaddell Avenue in January.

The unnamed officer is among the annual exodus of special guests and political leaders travelling to America for a St Patrick's Day reception in the capital.

Others include the schoolgirl who shared a stage with Barack and Michelle Obama when the couple visited Belfast.

Hannah Nelson, a 16-year-old student at Methodist College in the city, made a speech about peace-building before introducing the US first lady at Belfast's Waterfront Hall in June.

The teenager's speech won praise from the US president at the time and now she has been invited to the White House reception along with her mother, Frances.

'Snub'

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are on the guest list for the reception, and are also due to hold a meeting with the US Vice-President Joe Biden on Friday.

It is not clear yet whether Mr Obama, who is hosting the White House reception, will drop in to the meeting between Mr Biden and the Northern Ireland leaders.

It has been an annual tradition for the US president to meet the first and deputy first ministers so, if he fails to do so, it is likely to be interrupted as a snub over the failure to agree the Haass proposals on flags, parading and the past.

'Busy'

The US diplomat Dr Richard Haass spent around six months in Belfast, along with Professor Meghan O'Sullivan, attempting to broker a resolution between Northern Ireland's main political parties over outstanding problems in the peace process.

Mr Robinson, speaking to the BBC Northern Ireland's Sunday Politics programme, said the Stormont Executive was always glad of the help provided by the US, particularly around the economy.

He said he would be happy to meet Mr Obama, who he has met on a number of occasions, adding: "I recognise the president will be busy with events, particularly in the Ukraine.

"So nobody can take anything for granted, but we are happy to see him if he is available."

Dr Haass will be in Washington also.

Victims

He is due to give evidence on Tuesday to a congressional subcommittee of the US House Committee on Foreign Relations about dealing with the past.

This, along with victims of the the Troubles in Northern Ireland, is likely to be a key theme of this year's St Patrick's Day events in Washington.

The US vice-president has taken a keen interest in the issue.

He is being honoured on Thursday evening by the American Ireland Fund at a gala dinner in the Ronald Reagan Building.

Other Stormont politicians who are visiting Washington include Transport Minister Danny Kennedy, Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry, Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt, and Alasdair McDonnell, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

'Eating fest'

The Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny arrives in Washington on Thursday and will meet the US president on Friday for the annual Shamrock Ceremony, a symbol of the transatlantic bonds between the island of Ireland and the United States.

The Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams is also due in Washington from New York.

Northern Ireland's first and deputy first minister will host the Northern Ireland Bureau Breakfast on Friday morning.

This is due to be followed by the Speaker's lunch, the Shamrock Ceremony, the White House reception and the Irish Embassy party

One of those attending this week's festivities described it as an "eating fest".

But in fairness, business and lobbying does get done.

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