- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2008

Open for business

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern delivered a bowl of shamrocks to President Bush on St. Patrick’s Day, but the leaders of Northern Ireland think they planted something more permanent on their Washington visit.

The Republic of Ireland was nicknamed the “Celtic Tiger” for its economic revival in the 1990s, and the folks in the British province have followed Dublin’s example, burying their religious troubles and resurrecting a business atmosphere that made Belfast a boomtown in the early 20th century.

“Our determination is to create a society where everyone can enjoy a better quality of life now and in years to come,” said Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, as he promoted the U.S.-Northern Ireland Investment Conference in May.

Mr. McGuinness, 58, is a symbol of the transformation of Northern Ireland. He is a leader of Sinn Fein, often called the political wing of the Irish Republican Army. The IRA, in which he also served, waged an armed struggle for decades for independence from Britain and for civil rights for Catholics. Three years ago, the IRA laid down its arms and declared its commitment to democratic politics.

Also a symbol of transformation is the other deputy first minister, the Rev. Ian Paisley, the once-firebrand Protestant leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. Mr. Paisley, 81, and Mr. McGuinness have pledged to heal the wounds of the past, which they both helped inflict, and promote a peaceful and prosperous future for Northern Ireland.

Jeffrey Donaldson, who holds a position called junior minister, said, “Northern Ireland is very much open for business.”

Mr. Donaldson, who accompanied Mr. McGuinness on the Washington visit, noted that Northern Ireland has a “talented and well-educated work force” and a “friendly business infrastructure.”

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah of Mauritania, the special U.N. representative for Somalia. He addresses the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee of India, who meets with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Tomorrow

King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain, who meets with President Bush.

Shahid Javed Burki, chairman of a private Pakistani think tank, the Institute of Public Policy. He addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Eduardo Stein, former vice president of Guatemala, delivers a lecture on the political climate in Latin America at the Organization of American States.

Dusan Sidjanski, president of the European Cultural Center in Geneva and special adviser to the president of the European Commission. He addresses European Union relations with the U.S. and Russia at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Wednesday

Alejandro Toledo, the former president of Peru, who addresses the Inter-American Dialogue on Latin America’s social agenda.

Pulat Shozimov of the Tajikistan Academy of Sciences, who addresses the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Thursday

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia, who meets with President Bush, administration officials and members of Congress.

Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives in Sri Lanka, and Saubhagya Shah, assistant professor of sociology at Tribhuva University in Nepal. They participate in a forum hosted by the East-West Center and the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University.

Friday

Shaukat Aziz, former prime minister of Pakistan.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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