It was just another St Patrick's weekend in Washington. The Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern presented shamrock to President George Bush, the Northern Ireland political parties continued to bicker over who is responsible for the latest impasse, and green beer was drunk by the gallon.
This weekend, however, a new cloud hangs over the legacy of the Troubles and the alleged role played in a number of deaths by both American and British security agencies.
The claim - if true - threatens a new political storm over how and why FBI officials and MI5 operatives conspired to supply deadly bomb-making equipment to the Provisional IRA in the early 1990s, mechanisms the paramilitary organisation later shared with Palestinian fighters.
Today in Iraq the same technology is being used by insurgents to kill and maim British and American soldiers.
Six months ago, when The Independent on Sunday first broke the story, the Secretary of State for Defence, John Reid, was forced into a humiliating retraction.
For weeks his officials had claimed that bombs which killed eight British soldiers in separate attacks in Basra had been supplied to foreign fighters by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
Our story showed that the technology, far from being new, had in fact first been used in Newry, Co Down, in 1992 to murder a policewoman and maim her male colleague.
Kevin Fulton, a former soldier who infiltrated the IRA on behalf of the security services, made an astonishing claim: that he had flown to New York, met FBI and MI5 agents and was given money to buy an infra-red device to be used to set off IRA bombs.
The security services - already successful in preventing radio-signal bombs - believed that by supplying the equipment they could then introduce counter-measures.
"They knew the IRA was looking at the technology. By supplying the equipment, they thought they could stay one step ahead of the IRA," Mr Fulton told the IoS yesterday.
Following our article in October, an investigative journalist from the American magazine Atlantic delved deeper. And in an article to be published next week, Matthew Teague claims FBI sources have confirmed Mr Fulton's trip to the United States.
"I was satisfied with Fulton's story after checking it with FBI sources. I also had a record of Fulton's stay at a New York hotel at the time he said he was there," Mr Teague said. He said the article had already sparked a wave of interest before it hit the news-stands and he was aware of a number of senior American politicians who were waiting for publication before raising the issue in Congress.
The IoS has also spoken to a republican who was a senior IRA member in the early 1990s. He confirmed that Mr Fulton had introduced the IRA to the new technology and that the IRA shared this with "like-minded organisations abroad".
Mr Fulton currently lives in hiding in England and is taking legal action against the MoD, insisting he should receive a soldier's pension. A former member of the Royal Irish Rangers, he infiltrated the IRA after being recruited directly from the regiment by the shadowy army outfit the Force Research Unit, which ran agents inside loyalist and republican organisations.
Mr Teague says Mr Fulton answered "no comment" to claims that he had been responsible for 11 murders while working as an agent and that he had been given carte blanche to kill by his handlers.
Yesterday Mr Fulton refused to comment on those claims again, but asked about his New York arms-buying trip, he said: "I have been in touch with representatives of some senior American politicians in the past few days and I've told them that I am willing to travel back and appear before Congress if necessary."
The Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland has been investigating the FBI/MI5 link to the murder of Constable Colleen McMurray, 34, who was killed when an IRA Mark 12 mortar hit the side of her patrol car as it travelled along Merchants Quay, Newry, on 26 March 1992. Officer Paul Slane, who was travelling with her, lost his legs.Reuse content