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Friday 23 March 2018

Kenny aides tight-lipped on prospect of second Obama visit

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor Washington DC

GOVERNMENT officials are playing down the prospect of an announcement today of a repeat visit by US President Barack Obama to Ireland.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is in the White House today for the so-called 'Shamrock Summit' with Mr Obama.

The main item on the agenda is expected to be advancing the EU-US trade talks, as Ireland holds the EU Presidency.

However, the latest speculation on a visit centres on Mr Obama stopping off in Co Mayo on his way to the G8 summit of world leaders in Co Fermanagh.

Coalition sources say there is a theory being mooted about the president landing in Shannon Airport, heading to Mayo with the Taoiseach, possibly for a round of golf, and then flying on by Marine One helicopter to Lough Erne.

Organisers of the commemoration of US President John F Kennedy's visit to Wexford 50 years ago are still hopeful of Mr Obama making an appearance in Wexford after the G8.

But the entire affair is being hampered by diplomatic protocol and scheduling difficulties.

A visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden is also being spoken of, but with little certainty.

The Government is keen for a visit by Mr Obama but isn't going to publicly say it's asking until it knows the answer.

The Tanaiste was in Washington DC meeting with new US Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of today's high-profile event.

Meanwhile, Eamon Gilmore says he's not concerned by the Labour Party dropping into single-digit figures in the opinion polls. He also clearly signalled that he won't be revisiting the decision to close the Irish embassy to the Vatican upon the election of Pope Francis.

Despite seeing his party drop to just 9pc in the latest opinion polls, Mr Gilmore said the Government faced enormous challenges when it got into power.

"We are not going to flinch from that task. We have a strategy to bring about economic recovery in our country.

"We are getting on with it, we are going to see it through and part of what we are doing here in the United States and elsewhere is part of that job, which is talking to investors, talking to companies who are thinking of locating in Europe, explaining to them why investing in Ireland makes the best sense," he said.


Mr Gilmore says the Government still enjoys good diplomatic relations with the Vatican but gave no signal of a rethink on the closure of the embassy to the Holy See.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny was presented with an award by a prestigious college. The Taoiseach received the George Washington University 'Making Democracy Work' award.

In a speech at the university, Mr Kenny said unemployment was the "deepest hurt" of the economic crisis.

He said no level of unemployment was acceptable but the figure among young people was intolerable.

"As democrats, we cannot and will not allow a generation to grow up believing that democracy itself has failed to give them a reasonable chance in life," he said.

Irish Independent

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