American President Barack Obama has promised Enda Kenny he will return to Ireland – but the visit won’t coincide with the G8 conference in Fermanagh in June.
President Obama also discussed Irish immigration to the United States and the case of the undocumented during a meeting with PM Kenny.
The Irish leader confirmed the news to reporters after the traditional St Patrick’s Day shamrock ceremony at the White House on Tuesday.
Prior commitments mean President Obama will only visit Northern Ireland for the G8 conference this summer.
But he has declared his intention to make a return trip to the Republic after a flying visit to his ancestral hometown of Moneygall.
Kenny told the Irish Times: “There is a standing invitation for the president, the first lady and their family to visit whenever it is appropriate and convenient.
“I can say to you that he has reaffirmed his intention to come back to Ireland.”
Both Kenny and his deputy Eamon Gilmore discussed the plight of Irish immigrants in America during their meeting with President Obama.
Both Irish government leaders expressed their support for immigration reforms that could benefit up to 50,000 undocumented Irish people living and working in the US.
Kenny added: “I have to say President Obama is very confident that the situation here can be dealt with within a reasonably short time and he is hopeful there will be a comprehensive response.
“This is good news, which we have welcomed very strongly.”
Labor Party leader Gilmore told the Irish Times that he raised the issue of a two-year working visa for Irish workers seeking to explore opportunities in the US.
He said: “This met with a positive response.”
The Fine Gael leader also revealed details of a positive exchange with the President when they discussed a new EU-US trade agreement.
The Irish leader also represented Europe in his role as EU president.
He added: “The prospect of a trade deal received a strong and positive reaction from the US administration.
“I am hopeful that talks could get under way before the end of Ireland’s presidency of the union. Any final agreement, however, is likely to take anything up to two years to finalise.
“The potential is enormous and the fundamental issue is that trading conditions can be set for years to come, dictated by the two great trading blocs at the moment, the EU and US.
“Clearly, in Ireland’s case, there are implications here for jobs and we discussed that also.”
Talks also centered on the Irish economy with Kenny adamant that he was not engaging in a propaganda exercise on his trip to America.
He said: “We’ve spoken with confidence of the progress made by Ireland and pointed out that our plan and strategy is clear, with the objective of retrieving our economic independence.
“It is always tempered by the understanding that people are having a very challenging time in Ireland. That’s why we’re continuing to work very hard with the banks, restructuring, and with the insolvency agency, to help get those 100,000 persons with distressed mortgages back into the economy.
“The Government is unashamedly focusing on ways of supporting small and medium-sized enterprise and creating new pathways to work.
“This isn’t just a one-sided report here - it’s part of our plan and strategy, which is working. We never said it was going to be easy.”
Food & Drink
An Irish recipe repertoire essential - simple delicious colcannon