FORMER First Minister Arlene Foster has hit out at the ‘green’ focus of St Patrick’s Day celebrations, and has branded US President Joe Biden as “insulting” to unionists.
Writing in the Express on Monday this week, the Fermanagh woman stated St Patrick’s Day traditions in America were not inclusive of those living in Ireland who identify as British, and said the focus on the colour green in the celebrations made unionists “uncomfortable.”
Ms Foster opened her piece by pointing out St Patrick was a saint celebrated by all those who lived on this island, north and south, and said she’d had “a lovely day” with her family last Thursday. However, she was not impressed by the annual tradition of those in power travelling to America to promote the country each March.
In fact, she said while she had made the trip herself when still First Minister, she only did so because “if I hadn’t it would have been an international incident.”
“During the couple of days when the Irish descend on Washington and other assorted cities the green beer is in full flow and in Chicago the very river is turned green,” she wrote.
“It is a green fest and if you come from the unionist tradition believe me it’s a very uncomfortable situation.
“Americans are tone deaf to anybody that is Northern Irish or heaven forbid British during St Patrick’s day.”
Ms Foster went on to hit out at Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who she said was “a very aggressive Irish nationalist”, and noted Speaker Pelosi’s inclusion of a cringe-worthy poem by Bono which likened Ireland to Ukraine.
Then she turned her sights on the President himself and the fact he identifies as Irish, stating “Biden wears his ‘Irishness’ on his sleeve,” as well as his predecessor Barack Obama.
Explaining how when she visited as First Minister on St Patrick’s Day in 2016 she had “planned to leave Washington early before all the greenery really kicked in”, she said President Obama’s officials had convinced her to stay to hear his speech.
“Against my better judgement I did and as it was 2016, I was treated to a speech about how wonderful, the Declaration of Independence was from 1916 when Irish rebels rose up against the British state and cherished, we were told, ‘all of the people of Ireland’ – all of course unless you are British,” she said.
“I took it as a calculated insult to me representing the people of NI. The harsh reality is that especially since Biden became President the understanding and nuance of what happens in Northern Ireland has been pushed back decades.”
Noting President Biden had previously joked about not speaking to the BBC, or that there was “no space for orange”, Ms Foster said it felt that unionists were being “gaslighted” by the US administration and made feel that they didn’t exist. She said the time had come “to take off the green-tinted glasses.”
“In the US administration of today, there is zero recognition of the fact that a majority of people in Northern Ireland are very content to be British and value the Union of the United Kingdom – what we don’t value is being insulted by people who get their understanding of NI straight from the ladybird book of Irish republicanism.”
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