The US President met with Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny in the Oval Office on Tuesday to discuss the undocumented in America. Obama told the Irish leader that he would continue to push for immigration reform and commented on the fact that nobody has contributed to the American economy more than Ireland.
Obama said, “The great strength of the United States has always been the willingness to welcome immigrants to our shores. That's what's made us unique and special," he said.
"And no-one has contributed more to growth and dynamism than Ireland."
Kenny told the President he would like the undocumented Irish, an estimated 50,000 people, to be able to travel in and out of the US and added that it was time for politicians to take a leadership role on the matter.
“We referred obviously to immigration and the issue that affects us here. I commended President Obama on his executive action. Obviously, I’m aware that this is going through the courts. And the question of visa waivers and E3 visas and all of that are part of the process,” said Kenny.
“So I would hope that at the end of the day, that political leadership here in Washington, the greatest nation – the most powerful nation on Earth can actually deal with this particular problem. And it can only be dealt with by having courage and leadership to actually make it happen.”
Obama also agreed with Joe Biden saying that the work on the Northern Ireland peace process needs to continue and commended the efforts of the Irish leader and the government.
President O'bama is ready for St. Patrick's Day. pic.twitter.com/ngf50W4Ntu
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 17, 2015
Kenny and the President met privately for over half an hour before the Irish leader presented Obama with the traditional crystal bowl of shamrock.
Earlier on St. Patrick’s Day Kenny had breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden at the Naval Observatory. The VP greeted Enda and his wife Fionnuala and quipped that “anyone wearing orange is not welcome in here.” The joke has been slammed by the Irish press, and left Enda Kenny looking rather bewildered.
Speaking about the cross-party talks in Northern Ireland Biden said, “We need genius on all sides right now to lock this agreement down...To finally, finally, finally again bring an end to this dark chapter."
Biden referenced William Butler Yeats, whose 150th birthday is marked this year.
The VP spoke about the immigrant experience and wondered what the Irish, both those who stayed and those who emigrated, would think of their descendants.
"They all had dreams for all of us. We're Irish. We're dreamers," he said.
At the breakfast Kenny talked about how much economic progress in Ireland has made. He said the challenge for the government was to manage the economic recovery.
Mr. Speaker, I bring you good news from Ireland. Our people have turned our great country around.
— Enda Kenny (@EndaKennyTD) March 17, 2015
"We are big supporters of T-TIP," Kenny said about the proposed transatlantic trade agreement between the US and EU, saying that the "two greatest developed units on the planet" should reach a trade agreement. Again he gave a nod to the need for immigration reform.
Before coming to the White House, he traveled to Atlanta, GA where be opened a consulate and walked in the St. Patrick's Day parade and in Austin, Texas where he lauded Texas companies' role (ie. Dell) in helping Ireland's economic recovery. He also encouraged Irish emigrants to return home, saying the national budget included reductions in the income tax burden to make it more attractive.