Remarks by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, White House Reception, 16th March 2017

-   An Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Mr President,
The First Lady,
Mr Vice President,
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour to be back here again in the most famous House in the world to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, the most special of days for Irish men and women and those of Irish descent everywhere.

Since I was first elected Taoiseach in 2011, I have had the great pleasure of being here in the White House each March to mark the enduring connections between Ireland and the United States.

I want to sincerely thank President Trump and the First Lady for so graciously continuing this great tradition of hospitality which means so much to us all. I am proud to have the opportunity to contribute to maintaining and developing relations between Ireland and the United States, particularly at the beginning of a new era in our relationship following your election, Mr. President.

Let me congratulate you and wish you the very best as you begin your term of office. The job is exceptionally demanding and difficult. The United States remains the most influential, as well as, the most powerful country in the world. You hold the hopes and future of America, and indeed the world, in your hands.

I want to thank the President for giving so much of his time to this visit. We had an excellent meeting this morning in the Oval Office where we discussed a variety of important issues of mutual concern. I want to assure you of our commitment to working closely with you and your administration as you face the many challenges ahead.

Mr President,

The ties that bind our two countries are deep and historic. Ireland and the United States have a unique relationship that goes back to the earliest days of the original thirteen colonies.

Irish-born military officers assisted George Washington to win the war of independence. Indeed they have fought in every war for America since then. And this very house was designed by James Hoban from Kilkenny, modelled in part on Leinster House where the Irish parliament has met since our own independence in 1922.

It is fitting that we gather here each year to celebrate St. Patrick and his legacy. St. Patrick was, of course, an immigrant. And though he is of course the patron saint of Ireland, for many people around the globe he is also a symbol of, indeed the patron of, immigrants.

Here in America, over 35 million people claim Irish heritage and the Irish have contributed to the economic, social, political and cultural life of this great country over the past 200 years.

Ireland came to America, because deprived of liberty, opportunity, safety and even food itself, we believed.

Four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore.

We believed in the shelter of America, in the compassion of America, in the opportunity of America. We came and became Americans.

We lived the words of JFK long before he uttered them – we asked not what America could do for us but what we could do for America. And we still do.

We want to give and not to take.

The Irish have built bridges and roads.

They have protected the public as firefighters and police officers. They have cared for the sick in hospitals.

They have entertained as poets, singers and writers.

They became politicians, judges and legislators.

And as entrepreneurs they have provided hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans including, most recently, in exciting technology companies.

Today the economic relationship between our two countries has never been healthier and it is very much a two way street benefitting both of our economies and peoples.

Two-way trade in goods and services is approaching $100 billion a year.

Irish companies employ in the region of 100,000 people in the US and US companies in turn provide significant employment in Ireland. We see this as the key factor to success, a relationship that benefits both sides in a fair and transparent way.

This year we expect a record 1.6 million Americans to visit Ireland, and I want to assure you that we reserve the most special of Irish welcomes for our US visitors.

Mr President,
Ireland is a small island on the edge of Europe and a natural bridge between the United States and Europe.

As a committed member of the EU and a close friend of the United States, we will work hard with you Mr. President and your administration in pursuit of strong and open relations between the US & EU, including a strong trade relationship.

I believe the strong people-to-people links that Ireland and the United States have developed over the generations can help us in this endeavour.

On this special day for our two countries, our two nations, I wish you and the American people every success and happiness.

To all Irish Americans, coast to coast I say in these days especially, we hold you in our hearts.

Tonight, I thank you, Mr President for your warm hospitality.

We treasure the Irish-American relationship.

Mr President, I wish you, the First Lady Melania and your lovely family every good wish and blessing on this special day.

Go raibh maith agaibh agus beannatchtai na Feile Padraig oraibh go leir.

God bless Ireland and God bless the United States of America.

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