U.S. President Barack Obama with Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen in the White House March 17, 2009Reuters
There may not be much of a resemblance, but today President Obama told the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen that the two may be related.
Obama said he hopes to visit Ireland, and described the relationship between Ireland and the U.S. as one of the “strongest bonds” between peoples that exist in the world.
He was speaking at the traditional shamrock ceremony, which took place today, St. Patrick’s Day, at the White House.
“As some of you know, my mother's family can be traced back to Ireland,” Obama said. “And it turns out that I think our first Irish ancestor came from the same county that the Taoiseach once represented. So we may be cousins but we haven't sorted that through yet.”
“But even if by blood we're not related, by culture and affinity, by friendship and mutual interest, we are certainly related,” he added.
“The only thing I can say to him is he's not going to share a slate with me over there,” replied Cowen. “Because I can't compete with this man even in Ireland.”
Obama said that the Irish “have shed blood on behalf of this country's independence and its freedom” and added that Ireland probably had “as much impact on our culture and our traditions as any country on earth.”
The President, whose wife Michelle suggested dyeing the fountains at the White House green for the day, said that although everybody understands the bond of friendship between the U.S. and Ireland, it is something “we can't take for granted and we have to continually build upon.”
Obama told Cowen that while he was happy to receive the Taoiseach in the Oval Office, he’d probably have a better time at the South Side Irish Parade in Chicago.
“It is a lot of fun,” said Obama. “Although as President I don't think I could have as much fun as I could before I was President at that parade, because I have press following me all the time.”
"As somebody who comes from Chicago, I know a little bit about Ireland, and the warmth, the good humor, and the fierce passion and intelligence of the Irish people."
After the shamrock ceremony, Obama and Cowen met with Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
Obama and the Irish leaders later attended a Capitol Hill luncheon celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.
This evening they will attend a White House a cocktail reception.
There, entertainment will be provided by Maggie McCarthy, a traditional Irish dancer and musician from Co. Cork, as well as The Shannon Rovers, the official pipe band of Chicago's St. Patrick's Day festival.
Earlier in the morning, Obama named Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.