All the world beats a path to Dublin: all Dublin beats a path to Cheltenham

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The Independent Online
A SPANISH-INSPIRED parade, a Russian military band and a troop of American majorettes, all watched by an audience of Italians, Germans and Japanese, writes Steve Boggan. No, it isn't a rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the Olympics. It is Dublin on St Patrick's day, an occasion when true Irishmen are outnumbered by foreigners and when senior Irish figures do their best to get away from the shamrockery.

The Irishmen leading the exodus yesterday - albeit Northern Irishmen - were Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, his chief negotiator Martin McGuinness and the Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, who landed a night out with Bill Clinton as the search for a peace settlement was smoothed along with Guinness at the White House.

Their example was followed by thousands of their countrymen, many of whom make St Patrick's day an excuse to travel abroad. Thousands descended on Cheltenham for the first day of the annual Gold Cup meeting; they saw the Irish-owned Istabraq win the Champion Hurdle. Senior Irish politicians are despatched to Irish communities at the four corners of the earth. This year, the best ambassadorial trip surely went to Dermot Aherne, Minister for Social and Community Affairs, who, during a four-day official visit to France, had to endure two dinners, three receptions, two masses, an evening at the theatre, a Celtic music evening and a ceili at the Irish Embassy in Paris.

Clinton's pledge to work for peace, page 3