Irish Leader Leo Varadkar plans on discussing immigration with President Donald Trump at annual St. Patrick's meeting this Thursday.
It's been a non-stop series of U.S. events for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who arrived in Texas on Saturday for the start of a week-long tour that will be highlighted by Ireland’s annual St. Patrick’s bi-lateral meeting with the White House – for the second time hosted by President Trump – on Thursday.
Varadkar intends to talk to Trump about a number of issues, and he’s hoping to discuss the undocumented Irish as well.
“As with any meeting between two heads of government, there are always more things on the agenda than you can ever get to, but certainly the undocumented is one of those,” the taoiseach was quoted as saying in Tuesday’s Irish Times.
“I know from what members of the administration have said that they would like to find a solution that would allow thousands of Irish people to be regularized but obviously then that has impacts on people from other countries too.”
Varadkar told Irish reporters traveling with him on the U.S. tour that he’s spoken to the governors he’s met so far – Mary Fallin from Oklahoma and Greg Abbott of Texas, both Republicans – about Trump.
"I have asked them since most of them have met him on occasion. What they have all said to me is it is what you expect, the person you see on TV is the same person you'll meet in the office. So, I'm looking forward to that meeting obviously,” said Varadkar, who is keen to talk to the president about issues such as tariffs and trade.
"I think there is a risk of widening differences and widening gaps between Europe and America... around issues such as tax, trade, different approaches to climate change, security,” Varadkar said.
"I actually think that's where Ireland can have a very important role -- being a bridge between America and Europe, interpreting one to the other. That's a role that will perhaps become more important in the future, particularly as the United Kingdom leaves [the EU]."
During the morning meeting at the Oval Office on Thursday, Varadkar, Ireland’s first gay taoiseach, said he will raise the issue of LGBT rights with Trump.
“What I intend to say is that for the vast majority of people around the world including people from gay lesbian transgender backgrounds, we have always seen America as a beacon of freedom,” he said.
“This is the land of the free, the home of the brave. This is where the LGBT rights movement began. It is really tough to see a country that is built on freedom, and built on individual freedom somehow not being a world leader in that space anymore.”
Varadkar spoke at the annual South by Southwest event in Austin on Sunday, where one of the notable attendees he met was actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On Monday Varadkar traveled to Durant, Oklahoma to attend an event with the Choctaw Nation and announce a new scholarship program for members of the tribe to study in Ireland, as a thank you for the Choctaw’s donation of money to Ireland’s Famine victims in 1847. The first scholarships will be distributed in the fall of next year.
“Back in the 19th century, when the Irish people were oppressed, abused, neglected and degraded by our colonial master, at our lowest, your spirit of generosity was at its highest. You showed compassion to a starving people, who were dying in their hundreds of thousands, or about to embark on our own ‘Trail of Tears’ across the Atlantic Ocean to seek a new life in Canada or the United States,” Varadkar said at the event.
“So, I am delighted to announce today a new scholarship program, a partnership between the government of Ireland and the Choctaw Nation, for Choctaw students to study in Ireland. This is an opportunity for us to learn from you and from your culture, and you from ours, in a sharing of knowledge that will enrich both our peoples.”
On Tuesday evening Varadkar was due to speak at an event on Capitol Hill in Washington to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. On Wednesday the taoiseach will attend two economic-related events before that evening’s annual American Ireland Fund gala.
After Thursday’s meeting with Trump, who will also host an Irish community reception in the afternoon, Varadkar will attend the annual luncheon hosted by the House speaker on Capitol Hill, and an event hosted by the Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S. Dan Mulhall.
On Friday morning, Vice President Mike Pence will dine with Varadkar at the annual St. Patrick’s breakfast hosted by the vice president; Varadkar has said he will use the opportunity to speak with Pence about LGBT rights.
Friday afternoon will see Varadkar in New York for a meeting with Bloomberg, an Irish community reception and a visit to the new Irish Arts Center which expects to break ground this year. On Saturday, Varadkar will march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue before returning home.