Much of the world was to turn green yesterday for St Patrick's Day, the annual celebration of all hues of Irishness. Half-a-million people were forecast to line the three km route of the flagship Dublin parade, which is exploring the theme "The Extraordinary World". It is a nod to Ireland's increasing multiculturalism – as well as the past two centuries' global spread of the Irish.
This year Ireland also is pushing itself especially hard as a tourist destination as the country faces its worst recession since the Great Depression, with double-digit unemployment and net emigration for the first time in 15 years. St Patrick's Day is Ireland's first major tourist event of the year, packing hotels and pubs with visitors seeking an all-night party.
Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen is looking to boost his flagging political fortunes in a St Patrick's Day meeting with President Barack Obama.
The annual White House event is a mix of light-hearted cheer and serious politics. Cowen comes to the party weighed down by the massive budget cuts he has implemented to address his country's debt.