I travelled to Washington on Wednesday 14th March, where I joined the Taoiseach for the programme of events starting with the American Ireland Fund National Gala Dinner that evening, where the Honourees were the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, the Republican Leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, and the Friends of Ireland Group in Congress, represented by its Chair, Representative Richard Neal. In the course of her remarks, and specifically responding to the Taoiseach's speech at the Dinner, the Speaker made clear her strong commitment to regularising the status of the undocumented.
On Thursday 15th March the Taoiseach and I met with senior political figures in Congress, including leading members of the Senate and Members of the Friends of Ireland Group in the House of Representatives. During these meetings we took the opportunity to highlight our concerns about, and the need for early legislation on the undocumented Irish in the United States, and to brief our hosts on the peace process and on the Irish economy. We participated in the traditional Speaker's lunch, on the same day, which was also attended by President Bush. In advance of the lunch, we had a private meeting with the Speaker which, in addition to Northern Ireland and the undocumented, also covered the Middle East, Iran and Sudan/Darfur.
Later that day, I accompanied the Taoiseach to a series of meetings with senior business people, including the Ireland America Economic Advisory Board, where we briefed them inter alia on the opportunities for business in Ireland.
On Friday March 16th, I accompanied the Taoiseach to the traditional Shamrock Ceremony in the White House. Following this, we had just under an hour long meeting with President Bush and his top advisers which ranged over a wide area of national and international issues, including Northern Ireland — where we also discussed the Pat Finucane case, on which a resolution was passed unanimously in the US Senate the previous evening — legislation to regularise the undocumented, climate change, the open skies issue, the Middle East, Darfur, the Doha Round, extraordinary rendition, and development aid.