President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have both announced that they will visit Ireland, with Trump promising that he plans to make a trip in 2019
“I will be coming at some point this year,” Trump said during a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office last Thursday morning. “I missed it last year, and I would have loved to have been there. It’s a special place and I have a very warm spot for Doonbeg, I will tell you that,” added the president, referring to his Doonbeg golf resort in Co. Clare.
The annual Oval Office meeting raised a number of issues, Varadkar said, including Brexit, the possible appointment of a U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland which Trump did not commit to, and Irish immigration, specifically E-3 visas for the Irish which Trump is supportive of.
Trump and Varadkar also met Thursday evening at the White House for the annual reception for members of the Irish community. In front of such dignitaries as current Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, and retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, Varadkar presented Trump with a bowl of shamrocks.
“It’s a great honor, and I'm delighted to be here tonight with so many of my Irish friends. I have a lot of Irish folks in this room. And we have a lot of people that wanted to be here very specifically for that reason,” Trump said in his remarks at the reception. “We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and honor thriving Irish American partnerships that we have all over this country.”
Trump gave off the cuff remarks about other members of his administration before sticking to his script.
“This year, on March 17th, from Boston to Chicago, to the Emerald City of Seattle, and dozens of other cities and towns in between, millions of Americans will celebrate the legendary history and the rich heritage of the inspiring Irish people. I know many Irish people and they are inspiring. They're sharp, they're smart, they're great, and they are brutal enemies, right? So you have to keep them as your friend. Always keep them as your friend. You don’t want to fight with the Irish. It’s too tough. Too -- it’s too bloody,” he said to laughter.
“Tonight, we accept this gift as a symbol of the enduring friendship with Ireland and its amazing people -- people that we love. The Irish are confident, fierce, faithful, tough, and true. They never give up; they never give in. Do you give in? Does anybody here give in? Huh? I don’t think so.”
Trump also praised the strength of U.S.-Ireland relations.
“And I have to say -- and I have to say that we have literally never had a better relationship with Ireland than we do right now based on the relationship that we have. But we're doing trade. We're doing many, many things with Ireland. And it's been a -- it’s been a wonderful friendship. Never been stronger than it is today,” he said.
Varadkar also spoke about the U.S.-Ireland relationship and praised Trump for some of his economic initiatives.
“I know, Mr. President, you've said your ambition is to make America great again, and I think we can already see some of the results of that. The American economy -- the American economy is booming. There are more jobs, rising incomes, lower taxes. Exactly what you said you would do. And American military power is unrivaled. Nobody doubts your status as a great power in the world,” Varadkar said. “But I think what makes America really great is not just economic prowess or military might, it's all those things that make all of us around the world really love and respect America.
“And we know that as you work to make America great again, that won't mean forgetting or losing sight of all of those things that have made America great already. “People around the world have been inspired by America and have traveled to come here and to make it their home. And people came, including millions from Ireland who were among the hands that helped to build America. Some made the opposite journey and still do. And when Americans come to Ireland, we greet them as brothers and sisters.”
Varadkar met a number of U.S. politicians during his time in Washington, D.C., including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who hosted the annual St. Patrick’s luncheon on Capitol Hill, and Senator Charles Schumer from New York.
On Thursday morning, before heading to the White House, Varadkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett were guests of Vice President Mike Pence for breakfast at his residence. It was the first time that Barrett, a cardiologist, had officially taken part in D.C. events with Varadkar, and the Pence breakfast was particularly significant because of the vice president’s opposition to equal rights for the LGBT community.
“I lived in a country where if I’d tried to be myself at the time, it would have ended up breaking laws,” Varadkar said during his remarks at the breakfast.
“But today, that is all changed. I stand here, leader of my country, flawed and human, but judged by my political actions, and not by my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender or religious beliefs.”
Pence was applauded by Varadkar for providing “warm” hospitality.
“Vice President Mike Pence invited me and Matt to his home at the Naval Observatory this morning. It’s great to be back here for a really warm reception,” the taoiseach tweeted.