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Ireland's Ahern Gives Shamrocks to Bush


Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern gave President Bush a token of Irish friendship, a bowl of shamrocks, at the White House Friday, in an annual celebration of St. Patrick's Day.

The pair also discussed such political matters as the stalled peace process in Northern Ireland and the debate over Irish immigrants.

More than 50,000 Irish are thought to be in the U.S. illegally. At the shamrock ceremony, Prime Minister Ahern reminded Mr. Bush of the many contributions of Irish immigrants to America, and expressed his hope that there would be a way to legalize the status of those here illegally.

Mr. Ahern also asked for Mr. Bush's help in seeing Northern Ireland's 1998 Good Friday peace accord implemented, saying the greatest challenge for the Irish is to live in peace on their small island.

The White House says British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain was joining President Bush and Prime Minister Ahern in greeting civil society leaders who are striving to promote the peace process in Northern Ireland.

St. Patrick is honored on March 17, his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century.

Events surrounding the holiday, including alcohol promotions and parades, are a huge tourist attraction, generating about $70 million for Ireland's economy.

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by all backgrounds in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. But celebrations are also held in Asia and other parts of the world.