I am unashamedly pro-American. I love the place.
I take pride in our common values, our shared history and the special relationship the UK enjoys with the United States.
I follow its sport and politics; have enjoyed the hospitality of its people and it is home to some of my friends and family.
However reading the St Patrick’s Day press, as someone from the Orange tradition, I believe my kin and I are unwelcome in the view of Vice President Joe Biden. Tongue in cheek, maybe, but he really should know better.
He after all, not the President, is the key person in the White House relating to Northern Ireland affairs.
It is he who drives US policy towards Northern Ireland, choosing to take a personal interest and influence events here.
In practical terms this means senior White House staffers keep a keen eye on NI, US political figures (including Biden) lobbying our political leaders by telephone, in the press or through face to face meetings when they feel necessary – most notably in recent years in relation to the most sensitive of issues flags, parading and the past. You would think, then, that the Vice President of the United States would be across his brief on Northern Ireland.
That is of course unless you have followed the consistently patronising, ham-fisted and insensitive nature of US interventions in Northern Ireland during Obama years (in contrast to predecessors).
A series of condescending statements and irrational recommendations, so often met with bemusement and disbelief in many quarters, certainly Unionist quarters. For a VPOTUS to state on St. Patrick’s Day that ‘if you’re wearing Orange you’re not welcome in here’ may otherwise be a light-hearted joke, unworthy of too much faux offence I accept.
However, it is because that joke typifies the insensitive and bungling efforts of Biden’s last few parachuted diplomats that it will strike a chord, and seem to many ordinary Unionists to simply reinforce what they already thought about the this administration’s competency as a fair broker: that it is clumsy and ignorant at best, institutionally biased at worst. For this reason the Vice President shouldn’t be too surprised if grassroots Unionism is increasingly distrusting of future interventions.
To coin a phrase, he’ll find they’re ‘not welcome’.