Friday 15 November 2019

Obama remembers 'the great Irish Americans' throughout history in St Patrick's Day speech

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and US President Barack Obama lift the shamrock together (Photo: Niall O'Connor)
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and US President Barack Obama lift the shamrock together (Photo: Niall O'Connor)

Niall O'Connor at the White House

Waiting for a pint of Guinness to settle is "90 seconds well spent," US President Barack Obama told a St Patrick's Day audience at the White House.

President Obama paid immense tribute to Irish emigrants who he said had played a part in creating the American dream.

In the company of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Mr Obama said it is important to mark St Patrick's Day by remembering "the great Irish Americans" throughout history.

"The Irish did more than just build Americas, they helped to sharpen the idea of Americas, the notion that no matter who you are, where you come from, where your last name is, in this country you can make it," he said.

"And today we revel in that idea, we remember the great Irish Americans of the past, those who struggled in obscurity, those who rose to the highest levels in politics and the arts."

President Obama used his speech this afternoon to speak of his visit to Ireland and his ancestral home of Moneygall in 2011. He mentioned his eighth cousin Henry Healy and Ollie Hayes, owner of Hayes bar where he tasted his first pint of Guinness.

U.S. President Barack Obama holds a book of poetry by William Butler Yeats given to him by Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny (L) during their meeting in the Oval Office as part of a St. Patricks Day visit at the White House in Washington March 17 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a book of poetry by William Butler Yeats given to him by Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny (L) during their meeting in the Oval Office as part of a St. Patricks Day visit at the White House in Washington March 17 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

"Waiting for that perfect pint is 90 seconds well spent," he joked.

RTE presenter Ryan Tubridy, sports star Stephanie Roche and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams were in attendance.

President Obama noted in his speech that the the North's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness stayed at home as negotiations over the Stormont House Agreement continue.

During his address, Mr Kenny drew inspiration from the poet and playwright W.B Yeats.

"This year is also the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great poet WB Yeats. We will be marking that in many events throughout the year in Ireland, here in the US and around the world," he said.

"To mark that anniversary, Mr President, this year the Shamrock bowl is engraved with one of his most famous and most beautiful poems, “He wishes for the Cloth of Heaven," he added.

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