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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 March 2006, 12:33 GMT
Bush meets IRA victims' families
Robert McCartney's sisters and partner met Mr Bush
Robert McCartney's sisters and partner met Mr Bush last year
US President George Bush is to meet relatives of IRA victims during next week's St Patrick's Day celebrations.

They include Alan McBride, whose wife and father-in-law were killed in the 1993 Shankill bomb, and the sisters of murdered Belfast man Robert McCartney.

Relatives of Dublin man Joseph Rafferty, who claim he was shot by a member of the IRA, will also attend.

Northern Ireland's main political leaders are expected to be invited to the White House on 17 March.

Mr McBride's wife Sharon, and father-in-law John Frizell, were among nine people killed in an explosion in a fish shop on the Shankill Road, in west Belfast in October 1993. IRA bomber Thomas Begley, also died.

Mr McBride, who now works for a group called One Small Step, said he would update President Bush about its work.

Alan McBride
Alan McBride is due to meet President Bush

"Whilst we've had the Good Friday Agreement signed seven years ago, we still haven't got the sort of peaceful society that we all wanted," he said.

"I suppose really what the One Small Step campaign is about is trying to encourage people to come together and to recognise that we have to share this piece of land."

Last year, no politician from Northern Ireland received an invitation to St Patrick's Day festivities at the White House, following failed attempts to restore devolution and the Northern Bank robbery fall-out.

It is believed invitations have been extended to the main party leaders this year, but it is not thought any of them will meet Mr Bush.

Invites are believed to have been issued to Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, DUP leader Ian Paisley, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey and SDLP leader Mark Durkan.

Government ministers

Invites have also gone to the Alliance leader David Ford and the Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine.

Last year, much was made of the fact that Mr Adams, who was in Washington, was not invited to the White House while the sisters of Robert McCartney, allegedly murdered by republicans, were brought inside to meet the president.

However, while Mr Adams will be back in Washington next week, Sinn Fein sources do not expect any change in the decision to prevent him from fundraising there.

The DUP leader is unlikely to join him at the White House - his party have no plans to send a delegation to Washington.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is due in Washington to meet President Bush at the White House along with four other government ministers.

Devolved government at Stormont was suspended in 2002 following allegations of a republican spy ring at the Northern Ireland Office.





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