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Tuesday 18 June 2019

Mike Pence tried with extraordinary speech about Irish heritage - but Hillary Clinton wins the biggest cheer of the night

Ireland Funds run montage of all previous honourees at dinner - and the biggest cheer goes to Hillary Clinton

US President Donald Trump (L) and Vice President Mike Pence salute during the Inaugural Parade from the main reviewing stand in front of the White House on January 20. Photo: Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (L) and Vice President Mike Pence salute during the Inaugural Parade from the main reviewing stand in front of the White House on January 20. Photo: Getty Images
Vice President Mike Pence is seen in the background as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in Trump Tower, Manhattan, New York, U.S., . REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Kevin Doyle in Washington

US Vice President Mike Pence had an extraordinary speech about how he stood on the inauguration stand in January thinking about his Irish heritage - but it was a picture of Hillary Clinton that earned the biggest cheer on the night.

In an extraordinary and almost emotional speech, Mr Pence said: "All the I am, all that I will ever be and all the service that I will ever give is owed to my Irish heritage.

"As I serve the people of this country I will do so with the faith, the determination, the cheerfulness, the humility and the humour that is characteristic of the great people of the Emerald Isle."

Donald Trump's number two is the grandson of Richard Michael Cawley who emigrated from Tubbercurry, Co Sligo in 1923 to become a bus driver in Chicago.

He told The Ireland Fund dinner in Washington last night that people regularly ask him what went through his head as he was sworn in as the Vice President.

"I just keep thinking of that day in April 1923 when Richard Michael Cawley stepped off the boat in Ellis Island.

"I can't imagine what the sight of the statue of liberty meant to him that day. The torch of freedom," he said.

But it was a photograph of US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that earned the biggest cheer of the night.

US vice president Mike Pence. Photo: Reuters
US vice president Mike Pence. Photo: Reuters

Ireland Funds ran a montage of all the dinner's previous honourees and the photograph of Mrs Clinton sparked a massive applause, as Mike Pence watched on.

In front of 700 guests including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the controversial politician had described his family as "a small part" of the story connecting Ireland and the United States.

"As I stood on that inaugural stage I just kept thinking of that Irishman. I kept thinking of what he would be thinking about looking down.

"One, knowing me as well as he did, he'd be extremely surprised," Mr Pence said to laughter.

"And two, I have to think he just thought he was right. He was right about America. He was right to summon the courage as generations did before and since to come here and follow their dreams."

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He was presented with a special award by The Ireland Fund and a copy of the Tubbercurry National School enrolment book that contained his grandfather's name.

"The truth is that whatever I honour I receive over the course of my time as Vice Present, to receive an honour in the name of the Irish people and my Irish heritage will count as chief among them," Mr Pence said.

His sisters, Annie and Mary, attended the lavish event in Washington's Museum Building, while his mother who had been due to travel was unable to due to the storm sweeping the east coast of America.

During a 15 minute speech, Mr Pence also spoke about his visits to Doonbeg, Co Clare where he has relatives.

He also told the gathering that he was able to bring "greetings from my friend, the leader of the free world".

Mr Pence said Donald Trump knew of the contribution the Irish have made to America.

"Irish immigrants and their descendants have been proud patriots," he said, adding that the Irish were among "the strongest and most vibrant threads of our national fabric".

Mr Pence praised the Irish economic recovery and said the success was "a testament" to the "strong" leadership of Enda Kenny over the past six years.

"Many leaders around the world would do well to emulate your leadership," he told the Taoiseach.

In his speech Mr Kenny said: "The Vice President has joined the distinguished list of Irish Americans who have occupied the highest political offices in the United States.

"We take special pride in the fact that, for the first time in the history of this great republic, one Irish American has succeeded another in the office of Vice President."

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