For those of you thinking that the Obama Administration’s general Mean Girl-ish-ness over the Israeli election results (AND NONE FOR BIBI NETANYAHU) is the most egregious failure of our foreign policy this week, consider that we dispatched Joe Biden, our Vice President, one heartbeat away from the Presidency, to welcome the Irish Prime Minister and his wife to Washington in a joint celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
You may be asking, how, exactly, does one mess up a St. Patrick’s Day celebration with actual Irish people? Sure, the tradition of wearing green tutus and drinking until passed out in a gutter is a uniquely American tradition, but that’s a small defect in the otherwise incredibly close relationship between Ireland and a nation built by many of its expatriates. The answer to the question, though, is, of course, introducing Joe Biden.
Sporting a green tie and noticing that everyone else was also wearing one, or clad in green, he suddenly blurted: ‘Anyone wearing orange is not welcome in here.’
The purported joke was a reference to Ireland’s religious and political divide which was at the heart of the Troubles, the violence which killed 3,000 from the late 1960s until the start of the millennium.
Orange is the color associated with the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland, and overcoming sectarian tensions has been a major part of the effort to bring peace to the once-deeply troubled province.
Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister — whose official title is Taoiseach — and his wife Fionnuala Kenny, the guests of honour, both laughed nervously. They said nothing, but continued to smile for the cameras…
The Veep followed up his remarks with a muttered “only joking,” and then proceeded to refer to PM Kenny’s wife as “Fiona” until a staff member corrected him. And while several politicians in Northern Ireland demanded an apology for the Vice President’s remarks, which they took to be a jab at the segregation that tore the country apart for decades, if not centuries, Biden’s office responded that the Vice President had already said he was “just joking,” and probably added, “what do you want? It’s Biden.”