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Bush Celebrates St. Patrick's Day - 2002-03-13

President Bush is urging all parties to continue peace efforts in Northern Ireland. He spoke at an early St. Patrick's Day celebration at the White House.

St. Patrick's Day is not until Sunday, but the President devoted half his business day Wednesday to celebrating everything Irish.

He got the traditional bowl of shamrocks from the Prime Minister of Ireland, met in private with leaders involved in the Northern Ireland peace process, and presided at a White House reception.

The president talked about the sacrifices made on September 11 by Irish-Americans who serve as police and firefighters in New York. He then talked about the people of Northern Ireland who have seen too much terror and now yearn for peace. "America is encouraged with the great strides that have been made in implementing the Good Friday agreement," he said. "We see progress in the daily business of the Northern Ireland Assembly, in a new class of police recruits drawn from all communities in Northern Ireland, in the first act of decommissioning taken last fall."

He said the people of Northern Ireland have demonstrated a fierce determination to bring a lasting peace, so the next generation will not grow up amidst the "troubles" - a reference to the long-running battles between Protestants and Catholics. "For all communities in Northern Ireland there is only one future and it must be a future of peace," said President Bush.

Among those attending the reception were Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army. They took part in the private discussions with Mr. Bush along with David Trimble, who leads Northern Ireland's joint Catholic-Protestant government.

After the reception, President Bush went to Capitol Hill for the annual "friends of Ireland luncheon."