President Joe Biden had the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, over to the White House on Friday. This was the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic and the first time since Biden became president, even though he often talks about his Irish roots.
The St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, which include dyeing the White House fountain green, come before a trip by the president to Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of sectarian violence.
The United States helped negotiate the agreement signed on Good Friday, 1994. Biden said earlier this week that he plans to make the trip, but the White House hasn’t told anything officially about the details.
At a meeting with the Taoiseach, or Irish prime minister, in the Oval Office, the president called the visit “a big day.”
“Ireland and the United States share friendship and long, long traditions,” Biden said.
The president said that he agreed with the Windsor Framework and that the two would talk about it when they met. He also thanked Varadkar for working with him during the war in Ukraine and on economic issues.
Later Friday afternoon, Biden attended the Friends of Ireland Caucus St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon on Capitol Hill. He used the event to talk about his family’s ties to Ireland and try to find common ground with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
“I agree with the speaker. There’s no reason why we can’t find common ground,” the president said at the luncheon. “There’s no reason why we can’t hope to change this direction of extremes (in) both parties are pushing … I think it’s really important and that is the power of friendship. I think it’s a power of strength of our partnership if we work at it, and simply put, I think it’s the Irish of it.”
On Friday night, Varadkar returned to the White House for a Shamrock presentation and reception. Former One Direction member Niall Horan also played, and bagpipes were played.
Along with Cabinet members, diplomats, and members of Congress, the president pointed out that some of his “distant Irish cousins” were in the room, including Irish rugby player Rob Kearney.
The Taoiseach said that he gave the president a jersey and that an Irish flag was flown at an event in Waterford to mark the 175th anniversary of the first flight of the Irish flag.
Vice President Kamala Harris welcomed Varadkar to the Naval Observatory Friday morning.
On St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish Taoiseach has usually been invited to the White House as a matter of course.
Biden and former Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin met virtually for their annual St. Patrick’s Day gathering in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, Martin tested positive for Covid-19 when he went to a gala in Washington where Biden spoke the night before St. Patrick’s Day celebrations at the White House.
A presidential visit to Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the landmark Good Friday accord has long been the subject of speculation. Barack Obama was the last US president to visit Belfast in 2013.
In the bilateral meeting on Friday, Biden did not mention his upcoming trip. But when Varadkar said that the two leaders would discuss how the trips would be planned, Biden said, “I look forward to that as well.”
Biden’s trip to Ireland will be a symbolic homecoming for a president who often talks about his Irish roots and sometimes quotes poetry from William Butler Yeats or Seamus Heaney.
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