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Congress / GALLERY

St. Patty's Day Parade: Pro-Irish Congressmen on Traditions, Celebrations, and Green Beer

Glasses of green champagne are featured during the 2009 annual St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House.(Matthew Cavanaugh-Pool/Getty Images)

photo of Lindsey Boerma
March 16, 2011

Forget Republican red and Democrat blue. For one day (and one day only), members of Congress from both sides of the aisle will be full-fledged green. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, National Journal asked several members of the House Friends of Ireland Caucus what their plans are for the holiday, and about their favorite Irish traditions.

They’re not for want of options. In addition to the annual White House St. Patrick’s Day festival, the members listed several days' worth of galas and celebrations, many featuring Ireland’s top dignitaries.

 

As Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., said: On March 17, “aren’t we all friends of Ireland?”

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., was notably vague about his plans.

“Whatever the people think we should do to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day I will do, short of shooting a gun or something,” he said. “I don’t have any specific plans, except I’m gonna wear a green tie and might have a glass of green beer.”

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., will be meeting with "the [Irish] delegation coming over, which will be all new because there’s a whole new government in Ireland since the last elections. And then I’ll be attending the St. Patrick’s Day party at the White House, which is always fun."

Doyle said he'd be sporting green all day. Asked whether his plans included any green beer, he said coyly, "Oh, you know, I've been known to have a sip or two—on occasion."

Boasting a green shamrock tie and a faux Irish accent, Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., said he’s got “a full day” planned, “for gosh sake.” In addition to the White House dinner, luncheon with the Irish prime minister “and the Jim Calhoun-led UConn Huskies,” Larson said he’s requested that the whip meeting slated for Thursday offer soda bread, Irish coffee, bangers, or spuds.

“I always remember what my grandfather would remind us,” Larson said. “And it’s great advice for anyone in politics: peacock one day, feather duster the next. So while we’ll be strutting around like peacocks as we celebrate the day, don’t forget your beginnings and where you came from, because you could very well end up right back where you started.”

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., said his only plan for St. Patrick’s Day is “not to wear orange.” Asked whether or not he would partake in the holiday’s green beer tradition, he said, “I don’t drink—it’s killed enough Irishmen.”

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said his St. Patrick’s Day plans included lunch on Wednesday at the British Embassy. “There was a time when they wouldn’t invite me to the British Embassy because they thought I was too pro-Irish,” he said. “So I think that’s making great improvement. Then on Thursday I’m having my annual St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser, and we always title it, ‘Kiss Me, I’m Yiddish.’ And I’m marching in the largest parade in New York outside of Manhattan in my District on Sunday, and I’ll be wearing green all week long.”

Engel even has a favorite Irish tune. “Coming from New York, you grew up with Irish friends and neighbors, so I always liked ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,’” he said.

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., said his plans for the Irish holiday are simple: “I’m hoping to go home—drive home at 9 o’clock on Thursday,” he said. “I think I’ll find some place between here and my house to stop off.”

On his way to the House floor to vote, unsuccessfully, against a stopgap funding measure on Tuesday, McDermott seized the moment to take a jab at his GOP colleagues. “We’re supposed to get out of here before then, but I’m not in charge; [Republicans] are. And I don’t think they know about St. Patty’s Day.”

Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., has so many St. Patrick’s Day plans, he “can’t even remember them all.” Fresh off participating in “a big St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown St. Louis” last weekend, Carnahan said his upcoming schedule includes the American Ireland Fund National gala on Wednesday night, and on Thursday, the Northern Ireland Bureau Breakfast, and the White House dinner, “which is always special.”

Will he be able to make all of them, National Journal asked? “I’m definitely gonna try!” Carnahan said.

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