(WASHINGTON) -- Never mind that the calendar says it’s March 19. Around the West Wing of the House, it’s St. Patrick’s Day.
“We cherish this opportunity once a year to reaffirm the incredible bond between the United States and Ireland,” Obama told Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny in an Oval Office meeting Tuesday morning. “This year it also gives us an excuse the stretch out St. Patrick's Day for a couple of extra days, which is always good. ...Thank you for giving me an excuse to break out my green tie.”
Beyond the talk of green and shamrocks, Obama praised Kenny for leadership during the tough times facing the Irish economy and noted that progress is being made, citing news reports of a Boeing and Ryanair plane deal. Kenny, for his part, told reporters after the meeting that he sees a strong and positive response from President Obama to better E.U./U.S. trade.
Obama also applauded Ireland for “punch(ing) above its weight internationally” by sending Irish troops into “very difficult places in the world” to provide humanitarian assistance.
The topic of Northern Ireland was also on the agenda, with Obama telling Kenny that “we also have to recognize that there's a lot more work to be done before there's true unity of effort in that country.” The president also met separately with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Northern Ireland in the Roosevelt Room. No word from the White House yet on the outcome of those discussions.
Kenny made sure to finish the meeting by offering Obama an invitation to return to Ireland -- recall “O’bama” visited his distant relatives in Moneygall two years ago -- “and maybe the next time when our economies are moving in a more positive direction, we might actually have time to take out the sticks on the golf course,” Kenny said.
Up next: Obama and the Irish delegation attend the Friends of Ireland luncheon on Capitol Hill and, later on, back at the White House, there will be a St. Patrick's Day reception in the East Room.
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