Enda Kenny, who has served as Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) for the last five years and is now serving as a temporary caretaker Taoiseach in the wake of Ireland’s general election, will be cutting his St. Patrick’s Day visit to the US short in order to address the political uncertainty at home.
He was scheduled to be in the US on March 15 and 16 for two full days of events and official visits. Now, however, Kenny will spend the 15th in Washington and at the White House with President Obama, but will return to Ireland on the 16th, missing key events like the American Ireland Fund’s annual dinner.
Charlie Flanagan, Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, will attend all commitments on the 16th in his place.
A press release from the White House noted that “St. Patrick’s Day is being celebrated at the White House early this year as the Taoiseach must attend an important European Council meeting in Brussels on March 17.”
But, as the Irish Times reported, “Kenny is said to be eager to return home to be available for potential discussions around the formation of a new government.”
Yesterday, Ireland’s 32nd Dáil (lower house in Irish parliament) convened to vote on Ireland’s next Taoiseach, but none of the four TDs who had been nominated by their parties – Kenny by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Richard Boyd Barrett from Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit Party – secured the 80 votes necessary to assume office.
There will still be plenty going on during Kenny’s truncated US visit.
In the morning of March 15 Vice President Biden will host the Kenny for breakfast at the Naval Observatory, and the President and Vice President will meet with the Taoiseach in the Oval Office. That afternoon, Obama will host a reception to celebrate his eighth St. Patrick’s Day at the White House, during which he and Kenny will participate in the annual Shamrock ceremony started by President Truman, in which the US president received a bowl of shamrocks from the Irish leader.
In any case, the shamrocks are promptly confiscated by the secret service after the ceremony.
Also on March 15, Biden will meet with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Northern Ireland to discuss the Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements and progress being made for continued peace in Northern Ireland.