'The best days for Ireland and America are yet to come' - US VP Mike Pence lavishes praise on Taoiseach's 'extraordinary leadership'
US Vice President Mike Pence has lavished praise on Taoiseach Enda Kenny's "extraordinary leadership" and said he is confident that ties between Ireland and America will grow under the Trump administration.
Speaking at a breakfast gathering with Mr Kenny at the Vice President's home in Washington's Naval Observatory, Mr Pence, who repeatedly referenced his grandfather's journey from Sligo to a new life in the US in the 1920s, said he was "humbled" to receive the Irish delegation.
"Let me say that under President Trump's leadership, let me say Taoiseach that I am confident the ties between our countries will only grow," Mr Pence said
"They are ties of the heart of the heart, ties of congress, they are ties of shared values.
"And under President Trump's leadership and the extraordinary leadership that you've led with your government, the prosperity of recent years has been a marvel , the best days for Ireland and America are yet to come."
Mr Kenny is due to meet with the US President later today.
Among the Irish-American guests were the secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, and Congressmen Peter King and Tom Rooney.
In response, the Taoiseach said Ireland will always be a friend to the United States as he wished the Trump administration “every success”
Mr Kenny said there are “many international and global challenges” for the new administration.
“You and President Trump now occupy the two most powerful political seats in the world.
I'm so grateful for these gifts, and we now have them proudly displayed at the Vice President's Residence. pic.twitter.com/1KtqfUtwUo— Vice President Pence (@VP) March 16, 2017
Karen & I welcomed Taoiseach Kenny & Mrs. Kenny to our home for an Irish breakfast. Snow needs to melt before trying my new hurley. pic.twitter.com/Sr4uWT2yHL— Vice President Pence (@VP) March 16, 2017
And this morning, I received part of the 1911 census including the Pence Family filled out by my great grandmother. Humbling & touching.— Vice President Pence (@VP) March 16, 2017
You have a responsibility and opportunity to deal with many of those [challenges],” he told Mr Pence.
“It’s not easy but you’re going to get help from Ireland and you’re going to get help from the European Union.
“Ireland and the EU will never be but a friend to the United States.”
At one point during his address to a room that included the Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, the Taoiseach confused Donald Trump with former President George Bush.
He went on to speak about the important roles that immigrants have played in America over the decades and the “contribution that the Irish have made to American society”.
The politicians dined on a menu of layered omelette with spinach, tomato and applewood smoked bacon, along with country potatoes and fresh fruit.
Mr Kenny presented the Vice President with a hurley and in a tweet later Mr Pence said the "snow needs to melt before trying my new hurley".
Mr Kenny and and his wife Fionnuala were greeted by Mr Pence and his wife Karen at the door of the residence on a bitterly cold morning in DC at 8.30am local time, having spent much of the previous evening in their company at the Ireland Funds dinner.
"It's a beautiful sunny morning you organised for us," Mrs Kenny said as she met the Vice President. "It's very good for the shamrock," she added.
All four were wearing green and large pieces of shamrock, with March 16 unofficially designated as St Patrick's Day in the US.
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Pence is the grandson of Richard Michael Cawley, who emigrated from Tubbercurry in Sligo in 1923. He made a quite emotional speech at the Ireland Funds dinner on his ancestry last night, saying that he was thinking of his grandfather during his inauguration in January.
"As I stood on that inaugural stage I just kept thinking of that Irishman. I kept thinking of what he would be thinking looking down (on me)," he said.
"One, knowing me as well as he did, he'd be extremely surprised," he laughed.
"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."