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Video: Obama vows to return to 'magical' Ireland

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama yesterday promised another visit to Ireland -- and predicted our economy will bounce back.

He made the promise to return after describing his visit to his ancestral home in Moneygall, Co Offaly, and to Dublin last May as "magical".

He also thanked the Irish people for their "extraordinary hospitality".

After a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the White House he also said he was confident the country would get "moving again".

He said his visit last year was too short, and promised to return.

If Mr Obama beats his Republican opponent in the presidential election this November, he could visit as soon as next year.Government sources stressed the announcement was "an intention, but no date".

There were no further details last night, and no indications if it would be a full state visit -- similar to Queen Elizabeth's last year -- or less than a day, like Mr Obama's own memorable whirlwind call.

In an election year, Mr Obama could use the prospect of another visit to Ireland to boost his popularity among the Irish-American electorate.

That could be key in swing states that he must win to triumph in November.

Trade

Mr Kenny had a 45-minute meeting with Mr Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office yesterday, the culmination of his St Patrick's trip, and the two leaders discussed trade links, the eurozone crisis, Syria and Iran.

Mr Kenny also presented Mr Obama with the traditional bowl of shamrock as well as a certificate of Irish heritage at a separate reception in the White House last night.

But it was Mr Obama's wish to return to Ireland that grabbed attention.

"I want to thank the Taoiseach, his lovely wife and all the people of Ireland for the extraordinary hospitality they showed Michelle and I when we had the chance to travel there recently," President Obama said.

"It was a magical day -- too short -- so I have provided assurances that we will be returning."

He also referred to "the warmth and the goodwill that was expressed toward us and I think which really represented the deep bonds that exist between the United States and Ireland, bonds that are almost unique among countries around the world".

Mr Kenny said Mr Obama had "a little matter to attend to here in America" before any visit, but added: "It's a re-establishment, if you like, and a redefining of the unique relationship that there is between Ireland and the United States.

"It confirms my belief that the reputation of our country has been restored internationally, that the unique relationship that we've always had with the United States for so many reasons is exceptionally strong."

The president also paid tribute to the "exemplary efforts" of Irish peacekeepers in places like Kosovo and Lebanon, and he noted efforts to get the economy growing again.

"The Taoiseach described to me the steps they have taken to stabilise the banking system there, to get control of their Budget and to be in a position to grow in the future," he said.

He also highlighted the strong trade links between Ireland and America, and said employment flowed both ways, with Irish jobs in America and US jobs in Ireland. "It is important that both the people of Ireland and the American people understand the extraordinary benefits of trade, commerce and investment between our two countries.

"We are continuing to identify and describe additional areas where we can strengthen those strong economic bonds and I expressed to the Taoiseach my confidence in not only his Government's ability to get Ireland moving again, but also we consulted on the broader issue of how Europe can begin to grow again, which obviously has an impact on our economy."

They also discussed the fiscal compact and the upcoming referendum and Mr Kenny said he expected "the Irish people, in their pragmatism and understanding of what the future holds, to vote strongly in favour of the treaty".

Earlier, Mr Kenny also attended a breakfast given for him and his wife Fionnuala by Vice President Joe Biden.

Congress

Mr Kenny and Mr Obama also attended a St Patrick's lunch on Capitol Hill hosted by John Boehner, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, and the Taoiseach met the Friends of Ireland group of congressmen and senators. Also at the Congressional lunch were Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, the North's first and deputy first ministers, Mr Biden and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

At another reception last night, hosted by Michael Collins, Ireland's ambassador to the US, Mr Kenny also presented certificates of Irish heritage to Congressmen Peter King and Richard Neal, as well as influential 'New York Times' columnist Maureen Dowd, Irish-American novelist Alice McDermott and Dr Kerri-Ann Jones, an assistant secretary in the US State Department.

Irish Independent