Singing Obama hails “incredible” US-Irish relations
Published 14/03/2014 | 22:31
It was all smiles in the White House Oval office as Obama welcomed Kenny and lauded the "incredible bond" between the two countries. "I think it's fair to say that there are very few countries around the world where the people-to-people ties are so strong," Obama said.
The president praised Ireland's economic progress following the financial crisis and said the two leaders discussed the Ukraine crisis.
Obama also said he was disappointed that talks between the leaders of Northern Ireland's Catholic and Protestant communities broke down on Dec. 31 without agreement to ease tensions in the British province.
“I was disappointed, the US government was disappointed that the all-party talks could not arrive at a final conclusion and agreement, but we are urging the parties to continue to work and negotiate,” he said.
The talks were a response to some of the highest levels of street violence and attacks by militant groups since a peace and power-sharing deal reached in 1998. "We're urging the parties to continue to work and negotiate," Obama said.
Kenny said he and Obama discussed U.S. immigration reform, which Ireland's prime minister said "is an issue for Ireland and for many other countries."
Obama and Kenny then traveled to the U.S. Capitol building for a St. Patrick's Day lunch with House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress. As singers Gerry Timlin and Tom Kane belted out the folk song "Wild Rover," Obama bobbed his head and sang along, as did others at the event.
Obama and Boehner, on opposite sides of many political issues, smiled and bantered at the Capitol, each wearing a green necktie, donning the traditional color of Ireland.