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President Obama: "It is My Great Pleasure on St. Patrick's Day to Welcome the New Taoiseach"

The President meets with the new Taoiseach, Prime Minister Kenny, to discuss issues of import in the ongoing crucial relationship between America and Ireland.

Later this afternoon the President will speak on the tragic events in Japan, and even as the White House has marked St. Patrick’s Day that concern is on everybody's mind.  But there was also important business to discuss with the new Taoiseach, Prime Minister Kenny, as they both explained together after their meeting.

President Obama:

We obviously have the strongest possible relationship with Ireland.  The warmth, the affection, the familial and person-to-person contacts between our two countries extend far beyond any dry policy issues.  There is just an incredible bond between our two countries.  And that’s one that we want to reaffirm here today.
We have had an excellent conversation about how Ireland is going to be bouncing back from the severe economic challenges that it’s experienced over the last several years.  The Taoiseach shared with me his plans and his efforts to make sure that people are put back to work in Ireland, that the financial system is stabilized.  And he exudes great confidence, and I’m sure that we will be cooperating very closely with him and providing any assistance that we can on the economic front.
In addition, Ireland obviously plays an important role in the world.  We want to thank him for the operations at Shannon that are so vital for us moving our troops into Afghanistan.  It is a testimony to Ireland’s friendship to us.  In addition, Ireland actually has trainers in Afghanistan that have provided us great assistance.  And I expressed my appreciation for those sacrifices.  We’ve worked together on issues like international food security, and we will continue to work on those issues as well.
We remarked on the fact that the situation in Northern Ireland has proven to be stable, and we are going to continue to pursue all the progress that’s been made there.
So, overall, the state of the relationship between our two countries is extraordinarily strong.  This is a wonderful tradition each St. Patrick’s Day for me to be able to once again reaffirm the great warmth and affection that we have towards the people of Ireland.
And finally, I wanted to say today that I intend to come to Ireland in May, and I’m expecting to go not only to all the famous sites, but also to go to Moneygall, where my great-great-great-great-great grandfather hails from.  Joe Biden is envious because he wants to go first -- (laughter) -- but my expectation is, is that I’ll just be laying the groundwork for what I’m sure will be an even more wonderful trip by him.

President Barack Obama  Meet with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny

President Barack Obama and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, March 17, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Water in the Fountain on the North Lawn of the White House is Dyed Green in Honor of St. Patrick's Day

The water in the fountain on the North Lawn of the White House is dyed green in honor of St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)