Full Text Obama Presidency March 20, 2012: President Barack Obama & Congress Host Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny for St. Patrick’s Day Lunch & Reception



President Obama meets with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny

Source: WH, 3-20-12

President Barack Obama meets with Taoiseach Enda Kenny of Ireland (March 20, 2012)
President Barack Obama meets with Taoiseach Enda Kenny of Ireland in the Oval Office, March 20, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Today, President Obama welcomed Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach of Ireland, to the White House. While both men have had the opportunity to engage in a bit of St. Patrick’s Day revelry, there was plenty of serious business on the agenda for this morning’s meeting.

President Obama explained:

We have had a terrific discussion about a wide range of issues. Obviously for both our countries, one of the biggest priorities is getting the economy moving in the right direction and putting our people back to work. And the Taoiseach described to me the steps that they’ve taken to try to stabilize the banking system there, to get control of their budget, and to be in position to grow in the future. 

And it is important that both the people of Ireland and the American people understand the extraordinary benefits of trade, commerce, and investment between our two countries. We are, obviously, an extraordinary contributor to investment in Ireland, and that’s something of great importance to the people of Ireland. Conversely, Irish businesses invest and employ huge numbers of Americans as well.

Earlier, Vice President Biden hosted the Taoiseach for breakfast at the Naval Observatory, and all three leaders attended a St. Patrick’s Day lunch at the United States Capitol.

Later on Tuesday, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a St. Patrick’s Day reception in the East Room.

The White House selected this pic, from a St. Patrick’s luncheon on Capitol Hill Tuesday, as its photo of the day.

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, who have been less than cordial to each other lately, applaud as Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is introduced.


Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Kenny of Ireland after Bilateral Meeting

Oval Office

11:09 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it is my great pleasure to welcome once again Taoiseach, Mr. Kenny, who has done, I think, extraordinary work during a very difficult time.  Over the last several years, we’ve been able to strike up a friendship.  And you’ll notice that even though technically it is not St. Patrick’s Day, we like to prolong the party around here.  Technically, most of the Americans who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day aren’t Irish anyway — (laughter) — so we shouldn’t go on technicalities.

I want to thank the Taoiseach, his lovely wife, and all of the people of Ireland for the extraordinary hospitality they showed Michelle and I when we had the chance to travel there recently.  It was a magical day.  It was too short, so I provided assurances that we will be returning.  But the warmth and the goodwill that was expressed towards us I think was really representative of the deep bonds that exist between the United States and Ireland — bonds that are almost unique among two countries around the world.  And the impact, obviously, that Ireland and Irish American — that Irish culture has had on the United States is almost unparalleled.

We have had a terrific discussion about a wide range of issues.  Obviously for both our countries, one of the biggest priorities is getting the economy moving in the right direction and putting our people back to work.  And the Taoiseach described to me the steps that they’ve taken to try to stabilize the banking system there, to get control of their budget, and to be in position to grow in the future.

And it is important that both the people of Ireland and the American people understand the extraordinary benefits of trade, commerce, and investment between our two countries.  We are, obviously, an extraordinary contributor to investment in Ireland, and that’s something of great importance to the people of Ireland.  Conversely, Irish businesses invest and employ huge numbers of Americans as well.

And so we are continuing to identify and describe additional areas where we can strengthen those strong economic bonds.  And I expressed to the Taoiseach my confidence in not only his government’s ability to get Ireland moving again, but also we consulted on the broader issue of how Europe can begin to grow again, which obviously has an impact on our economy.

I also had an opportunity to thank him for the continued exemplary efforts by the men and women in uniform in Ireland who contribute to peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts all around the world, from Kosovo to Lebanon.  As I’ve said before, Ireland punches above its weight internationally, and has a long history rooted in its own experience of making sure that not only is peace a priority, but also that the human needs on issues like hunger are addressed.  And even in the midst of a relatively austere time, Ireland has continued to step up internationally, and we greatly appreciate that.

I’m pleased to see that progress continues to be made with respect to the agreement in Northern Ireland.  We discussed how the United States wants to continue to be supportive on that issue as well.

So, once again, Taoiseach, welcome.  We are always pleased to see you here.  And the expressions of affection that I experienced when I was in Ireland I’m sure you are experiencing in return while you are here, because the American people have just an extraordinary affinity and fondness for the Irish people. And we are looking forward to you having a very productive visit, and we look forward to going over to Capitol Hill where even when it’s not St. Patrick’s Day, everybody claims to have a little bit of Irish roots.

Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER KENNY:  Could I say, first of all, I want to thank the President and the First Lady for the accommodation that’s been given.  It’s always good to have a place to stay in Washington.  And it’s a distinct honor to be allowed to stay at Blair House, but also to come here to the Oval Office and have this conversation this morning.

I’d just like to say that I’ve given the President a rundown on the decisions taken by my government in the last 12 months to stabilize our public finances and to put our own house in order, but also to play a part, clearly, in the European Union is so important in a global sense.  And from that point of view, I gave the President a rundown on the changes in the structure of banks, the decisions taken by government in relation to the public sector numbers, the forcing down of costs and therefore the increase in competitiveness, and to report to him signs of confidence returning to the Irish economy.  But we still have a very long way to go.  Otherwise we’ve had a good, solid start but clearly there are challenges ahead.

I also reported to the President that the conversation around the table of Europe in the last 10 months has shifted from one of being just austerity to being one of good budgetary discipline, but also where clearly the agenda for growth and jobs will now be central to every European Council meeting.

I gave the President an outline of my views in respect of the fiscal compact treaty, and how we expect the Irish people, in their pragmatism and understanding of what the future holds, to vote strongly in favor of the treaty, and that this represents a real insurance policy both for the country and for the next generation of children — but also, not to allow any future government to run riot with the people’s money as has happened in the past.

We discussed the question of the development of the European economies, and how other countries are making efforts aligned with our own to have that as a central issue for the time ahead. We also discussed the trading links between the U.S. and Ireland. I pointed out to the President my interaction with the American Chamber of Commerce and the chief executives of multinationals in Ireland.  We discussed the question of the possibility of semesters, either way, for young people involved in innovation and research and education, which is so important in the context of what multinational companies are actually looking for.

As well as that, we discussed the issue of Syria, and I gave the President a rundown on the last discussions at the European Council meeting.  We also discussed the question of Iran and what the U.S. has said very clearly about this in the short time window that there is in that regard.

We referred to the possibility of an opportunity to travel again to Ireland, and the President has confirmed that in due course.  Obviously, he’s got a little matter to attend to here in America between this and that.  But I just wanted to say to you that it’s a reestablishment, if you like, and a redefining of the absolutely unique relationship that there is between Ireland and the United States.

I pointed out to President Obama since my visit here to Chicago, his home city, the extraordinary outpouring of enthusiasm and exuberance in the streets of Chicago on Saturday, and my visit to Notre Dame in South Bend, and the opportunities that we had in New York to meet with Irish American business, with American investment business, the Ireland Investment Day at the stock exchange.

And here in Washington for the past two days has been simply outstanding.  And it confirms my belief that the reputation of our country has been restored internationally, and that the unique relationship that we’ve always had with the United States for so many reasons is exceptionally strong.  And I told the President of the great work being done by Ambassador Rooney, but also that Ireland respects America for what it does, both in our own context, but also to keep the world a safer place for the hundreds of millions of people who look for real leadership in this regard.

I thank President Obama and his government and his First Lady for all they do for so many people around the world.  And as I say, it’s a privilege to be here in the Oval Office to represent our country and have this opportunity — on St. Patrick’s Week.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, everybody.

11:19 A.M. EDT

Remarks by President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Prime Minister Kenny of Ireland at St. Patrick’s Day Reception

Source: WH, 3-20-12

State Floor

7:04 P.M. EDT

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Well, welcome to the White House.  It’s great to see you all, and happy St. Patrick’s Day, or should I say, happy St. Patrick’s Week, the way it’s going.  (Applause.)

I’m lucky to be here with you all tonight.  I feel fortunate to have the honor to be able to welcome back Fionnuala Kenny and the Taoiseach.  They’ve been here before.  Some of you had a chance to meet them, and you’re going to get to see them again.

You know there’s and old Irish saying.  There’s all kinds of old Irish sayings.  (Laughter.)  At least my Grandfather Finnegan, I think he made them up, but it says, may the hinges of our friendship never go rusty.  Well, with these two folks that you’re about to meet, if you haven’t already, there’s no doubt about them staying oiled and lubricated here.  Ladies and gentlemen — (laughter) — now, for you who are not full Irish in this room, lubricating has a different meaning for us all.  (Laughter.)

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here tonight to celebrate the friendship between two great nations, Ireland and the United States.  William Butler Yeats referred to Ireland as “a worldwide nation.”  Our Irish heritage has touched many, many people, many more people than could possibly fit on the beautiful Emerald Isle.

America and Ireland are the two nations that define me the most, and I expect most of you in this room.  Our countries share a bond that goes all the way back to the beginning of our country.  Eight Irishmen signed the Declaration of Independence, fully one-seventh of the signator.  Since then, half our Presidents have claimed Irish blood, including the one I’m about to introduce.  (Applause.)

And today our countries are tied together by 40 million Americans who descended from that beautiful island just across the sea, and — but we share a lot more than blood.  And I think everyone here will understand this.  I think we share a set of values, a set of values that is sort of stamped into our DNA.

My mom, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, used to say — (laughter) — honey, to be Irish is about family.  It’s about faith.  But most of all, it’s about courage.  She said that — one of her sayings was, without courage — without courage, you can’t love with abandon.

And, ladies and gentlemen, for me that’s the essence of being Irish:  passion and being able to love with abandon.  That’s why my mom liked Barack, the President.  That’s why she liked him so much.  I think the President got used to my mom during the campaign, Mr. Ambassador, referring to him all the time as, honey.  (Laughter.)  She’d grab his hand and say, now, Honey.

Well, she thought that the President embodied all the things that she thought made Ireland and the Irish special, particularly his courage.  Ladies and gentlemen, this President abounds in courage.  So, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you my four friends and your friends, the President of the United States and Michelle Obama, as well as the Taoiseach and Fionnuala Kenny.

Ladies and gentlemen.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Hello, everybody!


PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, welcome to the White House.  This does not sound like a shy crowd.  (Laughter.)

As you may have noticed, today is not, in fact, St. Patrick’s Day.  (Laughter.)  We just wanted to prove that America considers Ireland a dear and steadfast friend every day of the year.  (Applause.)  Some of you may have noticed we even brought the cherry blossoms out early for our Irish and Northern Irish visitors.  And we will be sure to plant these beautiful shamrocks right away.

I want to welcome back my good friend, Taoiseach Kenny, his extraordinary wife, Fionnuala.  This has been our third working visit in just over a year, and each one has been better than the last.

I’ve had the pleasure to welcome back First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Northern Ireland, as well.

And, everyone, please welcome my new friends from Moneygall, my long-lost cousin, Henry.  (Applause.)  His mother, Mary, is here as well.  And my favorite pub keeper, Ollie Hayes, is here with his beautiful wife.  (Applause.)  He was interested in hiring Michelle — (laughter) — when she was pouring a pint.  I said, she’s too busy — maybe at the end of our second term.  (Applause.)

In return, I did take them out for a pint at the Dubliner here in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.  That’s right, I saw some of you there.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t take pictures.  And I’ve asked them to please say hello to everybody back home for me.

Now, while there are too many Irish Americans to acknowledge by name here tonight, I do want to thank Martin O’Malley and his band for rocking the White House for the evening.  It’s said that the curse of the Irish, as the Governor must know, is not that they don’t know the words to a song — it’s that they know them all.  (Laughter.)

As you may know, I finally got to spend a day in Ireland with Michelle last May.  I visited my ancestral village of Moneygall, saw my great, great, great grandfather’s house.  I had the distinct honor of addressing the Irish people from College Green in Dublin.  And when it comes to their famous reputation for hospitality and good cheer, the Irish outdid themselves.  Michelle and I received absolutely the warmest of welcomes, and I’ve been trying to return the favor as best I can.

There really was something magical about the whole day — and I know that I’m not the only person who feels that way when they visit Ireland.  Even my most famously Irish American predecessor was surprised about how deeply Ireland affected him when he visited in his third year as President.  “It is strange,” President Kennedy said on his last day in Ireland, “that so many years and so many generations pass, and still some of us who come on this trip could feel ourselves among neighbors, even though we are separated by generations, by time and by thousands of miles.”

I know most of you can relate to that.  I think anyone who’s had a chance to visit can relate.  And that’s why Jackie Kennedy later visited Ireland with her children and gave one of President Kennedy’s dog tags to his cousins in Dunganstown.  And that’s why I felt so at home when I visited Moneygall.

When my great, great, great, great, grandfather arrived in New York City after a voyage that began there, the St. Patrick’s Society in Brooklyn had just held its first annual banquet.  And a toast was made to family back home enduring what were impossibly difficult years:  “Though gloomy shadows, hang o’er thee now, as darkness is densest, even just before day, so thy gloom, truest Erin, may soon pass away.”

Because for all the remarkable things the Irish have done in the course of human history, keeping alive the flame of knowledge in dark ages, outlasting a great hunger, forging a peace that once seemed impossible, the green strands they have woven into America’s heart — from their tiniest villages through our greatest cities — is something truly unique on the world stage.
And these strands of affection will never fray, nor will they come undone.  While those times and the troubles of later generations were far graver than anything we could fathom today, many of our people are still fighting to get back on solid ground after several challenging years.

But we choose to rise to these times for the same reason we rose to those tougher times:  Because we are all proud peoples who share more than sprawling family trees.  We are peoples who share an unshakeable faith, an unbending commitment to our fellow man, and a resilient and audacious hope.  And that’s why I say of Ireland tonight what I said in Dublin last May, this little country that inspires the biggest things — its best days are still ahead.

So I propose a toast to the Taoiseach and the people of Ireland.  Do I have any — where’s my drink?  (Laughter.)  Here it is, here it is.  All right, here we go.  It’s only water but  — (laughter) — obviously, somebody didn’t prepare.  (Laughter.)

To quote your first President, Douglas Hyde:  “A word is more lasting than the riches of the world.”  Tonight, grateful for our shared past and hopeful for our common future, I give my word to you, Mr. Prime Minister, and to the people of Ireland:  As long as I am President, you will have a strong friend, a steadfast ally, and a faithful partner in the United States of America.

Ladies and gentlemen, Taoiseach Kenny.  (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER KENNY:  Mr. President, Vice President Biden, Michelle, ladies and gentlemen, these have been an extraordinary few days in the relationships between Ireland and America.  Thank you for your warm invitation and for this warm welcome.

(Speaks Irish)  May the blessings of St. Patrick be with you, your families and the American people.

Ireland actually picked the best time of year for its national celebration.  (Laughter.)  It’s the time of year when the Earth turns at the Spring Equinox, and as they say, the sea spreads it far sun crop to the north.

This, indeed, is a blessed time, a time when we are thankful for our blessings, blessings of being a proud and noble Irish people; the blessings of a dazzling generosity of heart and mind, and of a glittering imagination; the blessing of our children, our families, our friends — friends like America.

As Taoiseach, a year into this new government, I’m proud, indeed, to bring good news from home.  Thanks to the courage and the resilience and the sacrifice of the Irish people, the Irish ship of state now faces in the right direction.  Our economy is stabilizing.  Our exports are thriving.  Our international reputation is being restored.  Ireland is building itself a better future.

Today, Mr. President, Ireland thanks America.  We thank you for the centuries where you gave us shelter and refuge and opportunity, and above all, where you gave us hope.  (Applause.)

In the Irish language, we have many phrases, one of them is — (Speaks Irish) — That means:  Hope cures every misery.  It was that miracle — hope that brought millions of Irish people to your shores yearning for a better life.  Not everybody survived that journey.  It is said that 80,000 Irish souls were lost in the Atlantic, victims of long hunger, of fever and of destitution.  Indeed, an ocean, a tide of lost ancestors, a bitter benediction of the waters dividing the old life and the new.

Well, tonight I remember them.  We honor them here in this White House — designed by an Irish architect — and in our national hearts.  (Applause.)  Because they were the price of a new life.  In the new country, in this new country of miraculous plenty, the survivors — among them, one Falmouth Kearney — walked straight off those ships.  But ironically, they never stopped looking back.  Because our research shows that while their fellow arrivals saw emigration as an opportunity, for the Irish it was always a tragedy.

There were the dispossessed — their hearts, their minds in Ireland; their hopes and their futures in America — the least likely of any nation ever to return home.  Which is why what makes the Irish and what they did for America all the more heroic, all the more remarkable, all the more noble.

Despite their longing for home, they gave their hands to work, their faith in God, their future to this United States of America.  They became heroes of their own stories, and, as a consequence, of America’s story.

Mr. President, today, the Irish people are heroes of our own story.  Today, persistent and determined and proud, we answer your question of belief in ourselves, because we believe that our country and our nation will succeed.

When you came last May to that small, intimate homecoming in College Green — (laughter) — just the two Obamas, half of the U.S. Secret Service — (laughter) — 100,000 enthralled Irish people — you, sir, the young President, stood in front of the old Irish House of Lords and you promised that you would stand by us.  Well, sir, you and America have kept your word.  For Ireland, your door has been and is always open.  And for that we thank you.  (Applause.)

That memorable day was also made very special by your trip, as you said, to the home of your ancestors in the village of Moneygall — Henry VIII is almost as famous as yourself.  (Laughter.)  That’s because for all people of Irish heritage, the most important part of their visit to our country is always the trip to the homeplace.

And as a prominent reminder, and on your behalf of your historic homecoming, Mr. President, it is my honor to present to you, on behalf of the Irish people and of the government, this formal certificate of Irish heritage.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Look at that!  I love it.  That’s great.

PRIME MINISTER KENNY:  These are very rare.  (Laughter.)  As rare as the man himself.  (Laughter.)

Next year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the homecoming of another one of our sons, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  Next year, Ireland will gather her global family to herself in a year-long celebration of the ties of heart and hope and history that bind us and allow us to imagine together a better, brighter richer future.  We call it simply “The Gathering.”

These are our new departures of hope and confidence and success.  And these are the new departures from which there will be no going back.

This evening, Mr. President, I bring our current emigrants to the heart of these celebrations here in the (speaks Irish) of the White House.

As you see, a light burns brightly within every one of these emigrants, and that’s the light of opportunity, of ambition, and of confidence.  But it is also the light of home.  Especially in this week of St. Patrick, my message to their parents and their families is this:  My work and that of my government, with your work and your government, is aimed at ensuring that these children — Ireland’s children — can live and work at home if that is their intention and their desire.

Mr. President, the great American philosopher Henry David Thoreau said, “Things do not change.  We change.”  And since your visit to us last year, Ireland has changed dramatically.  We have swapped the confines of the old fears for your audacity of hope. (Applause.)  And every day we work to create a better, more confident, more determined future.  We know our challenges are tough, but we meet those head on.

And because we know that every nation becomes what it envisions, we are forging success — this time, a more authentic success.  We take the old advice and the old adage that in the calm ahead we use the strength of purpose that we found in the storm.

Mr. President, like you, we believe that Ireland’s best days are still up ahead.  And like you, we believe that our greatest triumphs are still to come.  When you came to Ireland, like your predecessor, President Kennedy, and President Clinton, you made us dream again.  On these days of St. Patrick, we hope that you will be able to fulfill your promise to come home again in the springtime.

May God bless you, Mr. President, in the work you do for global peace and security.  May he guide you in your efforts to keep our world a safer place.

Mr. President, Michelle, and your two lovely daughters, Sasha and Malia, happy St. Patrick’s Week.  (Laughter.)  And remember, as we always do:  (Speaks Irish) — “The sun always shines after the rain.”

And now it’s my privilege, on behalf of Ireland, to present President Obama with the traditional Bowl of Shamrock.  May it bring him good luck in the time ahead.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, thank you.  First of all, this will have a special place of honor alongside my birth certificate.  (Laughter and applause.)  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  The shamrocks have brought good luck to our garden over the past few years.  And I am extraordinarily grateful to you, Taoiseach, and Fionnuala, for just being such wonderful hosts to us when we were there.  But I think that you get a sense from this crowd that you have a second home on the other side of the Atlantic, and that good cheer and warmth is probably reciprocated.  (Applause.)

So happy St. Patrick’s Week, everybody.  God bless you.  May God bless both our countries.  Have a wonderful time while you’re here.  Don’t break anything.  (Laughter and applause.)

7:25 P.M. EDT


Remarks by the President at Friends of Ireland Luncheon — U.S. Capitol

Source: WH, 3-20-12

U.S. Capitol
12:58 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please.  Well, thank you, John.  Thank you, everybody.  I know we are all glad to welcome Taoiseach Kenny and his lovely wife back to Washington.  Technically, you may be aware, it is not St. Patrick’s Day.  (Laughter.)  Of course, technically, most Americans who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day are not Irish.  So it’s a wash.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank our top Irishman in the White house, Joe Biden, who is here, and Speaker Boehner, for being such a gracious host.  I want to welcome Ambassador Collins and Mrs. Collins; distinguished members of the House and the Senate; leaders from Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Britain.  Thank you all for coming.

I always think about how every Taoiseach must leave this luncheon marveling at how cheerful and bipartisan Washington is.  (Applause.)  It’s remarkable.  And that’s something worth aspiring to, even during an election year.

As John mentioned, this wonderful tradition began with Speaker Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan.  And when I was getting ready this morning, I came across some advice that Tip gave to anybody who was making a St. Patrick’s Day speech.  As the story goes, Tip was once asked to deliver a speech to the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in Pennsylvania.  He figured the Irishmen would arrive early, perhaps have a few drinks, relax a little bit, and by the time he stood up to speak, they would applaud anything he said as long as he kept it short.

Then, as Tip was getting dressed, one of the — his aides ran up to him, out of breath, and said he had just found out that no drinking was allowed before dinner — only afterwards.  And Tip panicked a little bit.  He realized he had to prepare.  So he grabbed a few pages from “Famous Irishmen of America,” underlined some passages, acted like he had planned it all along.  The speech went extraordinarily well, and afterwards, he was complimented on his thoroughness and studiousness in preparing for the speech.

So Tip’s lesson was:  Always know your audience, and don’t count on drinks getting you through the evening.  (Laughter.)

But Tip also taught us something else.  He taught us that even in the midst of partisanship and passion, true friendship can exist in this town.  Tip and President Reagan famously had fierce battles and genuine disagreements.  But after the work ended, the two men did their best to put partisanship aside.  According to Tip, President Reagan used to begin calls with, “Hello, Tip, is it after 6 o’clock?”  (Laughter.)  To which the Speaker would reply, “Absolutely, Mr. President.”  And then they could enjoy each other’s company.

For his part, the President said he always knew Tip was behind him, even if it was just at the State of the Union — (laughter) — whispering to the Vice President after every policy proposal, “Forget it.”  (Laughter.)  “No way.”  “Fat chance.”  (Laughter.)  I can relate.  (Laughter.)

So it is no surprise that the two proud Irishmen came together to start this luncheon — with the Speaker promising to cook some Boston corned beef, and the President offering to “polish up some new Irish jokes.”  Later, our friend Ted Kennedy and others persuaded Taoiseach to join them.  And today, the only argument we have is over who has more green in their family tree.

For once, I have some bragging rights here.  Last spring, the Taoiseach and Mrs. Kenny hosted Michelle and I for a wonderful visit to Ireland.  And one of the highlights was a trip to the small village of Moneygall, where my great-great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side lived before he set sail for America.  I met my eighth cousin, Henry — who has my ears, I might point out.  (Laughter.)  We had a pint of Guinness at the local pub.  And I got a chance to see firsthand the kind of hospitality that the bighearted people of Ireland have always been known for.

So today is about celebrating those people — as well as the tens of millions of Americans who trace their heritage across the ocean to the Emerald Isle.  Never has a nation so small had such an enormous impact on another.  Never has anyone taught us more about the value of faith and friendship; about the capacity of the human spirit; about the simple truth that it’s harder to disagree when we recognize ourselves in each other — which is easier to do when we’re all wearing green.

So to Taoiseach Kenny, I want to thank you and Fionnuala for joining us here today.  And I want to thank the people of Ireland for their friendship, now and always.  Cheers.  (Applause.)

1:03 P.M. EDT

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