Tuesday 16 January 2018

Obama tells Kenny: Irish success is vital to US economy

President hails ‘great leadership of Taoiseach in difficult times’

Enda Kenny gives a gift of an etched bowl filled with shamrock to US President Barack Obama at the White House
Enda Kenny gives a gift of an etched bowl filled with shamrock to US President Barack Obama at the White House

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor in Washington DC

US President Barack Obama has delivered a ringing endorsement to the "progress of the Irish economy".

Mr Obama told Taoiseach Enda Kenny and visiting dignitaries that Ireland's success was vital to the United States and hailed Ryanair's €12bn deal with Boeing.

The president was fortright in his praise of Enda Kenny, during a day in which he and Washington DC welcomed the Irish with typically open arms.

"The Taoiseach has shown great leadership in difficult times in Ireland and we are seeing progress in the Irish economy," said Mr Obama. "That's good for the US economy because we have a lot of trade, a lot of investment in Ireland."

Mr Kenny in turn congratulated the president on winning a second term. He then made reference to Ireland's economic troubles amd said "we still have a long way to go".

But the Taoiseach added: "That confidence is returning to our country and people."

Mr Obama said it was his fifth time to invite a Taoiseach to the Oval Office and recalled his trip to Ireland two years ago. He also said Ireland also "punches above its weight" when it comes to humanitarian relief and peacekeeping.


Mr Kenny said the pair discussed a wide range of issues, including the progress on the economic front, EU-US trade talks, Northern Ireland and the issue of immigration and the undocumented Irish.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was optimistic about developments on the immigration reform front. He said he was raising his proposal for a two-year working visa for Irish people in his talks on Capitol Hill. A version of the E-3 visa is already in operation between the US and Australia.

The Government is seeking agreement on the 50,000 illegal Irish emigrants in the US as well as a new arrangement.

Mr Obama said: "It's clear just how much America owes to our brothers and sisters from across the Atlantic, and how many of us – myself included – wouldn't be here if it were not for the brave souls who set off for the New World with no earthly idea of what awaited them on the other side."

Last night, Mr Kenny was back in the White House for the traditional presentation of the bowl of shamrock.

Mr Obama rounded off the annual presentation of the shamrock with an old Irish saying. "There is an old Irish saying that the recipe for a long life is to leave the table hungry, leave the bed sleepy and leave the bar thirsty," he said.

Mr Obama told the crowd he looked forward to visiting Northern Ireland for the G8 summit.

However, the president isn't likely to visit to make a return visit to Ireland to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic visit by John F Kennedy, as had earlier been speculated.

Attempts were made to coax him across the border while he was on the island for the G8 summit in Fermanagh. But these efforts were hampered by diplomatic protocols.

However he did promise to come back at some point, although he gave Taoiseach Enda Kenny no indication of when this visit might occur.

Mr Kenny said his schedule was "complicated" but he did extend an invite for the president and his family to visit.

"We have agreed is there is a standing invitation to come to Ireland whenever is convenient," he said.

"And I can say to you that he has reaffirmed that it is his intention to come back to Ireland."

Irish Independent

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