Ireland's relationship with the United States dates back to before the independence of either country. It is built on the hundreds of thousands of our people who left for a new life in the US, whether fleeing famine or conflict at home or seeking better economic opportunity.
The affection in which Ireland is held in the US is unique and is reflected in, among other things, the high frequency of political visits between our countries.
The highpoint of all of this contact is the annual visit to the White House by an Taoiseach for St Patrick's Day. The tradition of presenting shamrock to the US president dates back to 1952 and has continued - regardless of who has occupied the Oval Office - every year since then.
It is unique and transcends the question of who is in government in either Dublin or Washington DC because it is about more than politics - it is a reflection of the deeper and broader relationship between our two countries.
It also provides us with an unrivalled opportunity to influence and to pursue our national priorities in the relationship with the US. Again, this is unique. No other country - much less one as small as Ireland - has this level of access, no other country manages to bring the centre of American power to a virtual political standstill to celebrate its national day. It would be a mistake to take this tradition for granted or to fail to recognise it for the enormous opportunity it provides Ireland every year.
Developments in the US in recent days could have far-reaching implications. While US immigration policy is a matter for their authorities, there are humanitarian consequences which could arise from the US order temporarily banning the entry of immigrants from certain countries, as well as repercussions for the relationship between the US and the global Muslim community.
I have expressed my concern, as have colleagues from other EU countries. I have also reiterated Ireland's commitment to our values and to our international obligations. I am also very conscious of the continuing priority we must attach to seeking relief for the some 50,000 undocumented Irish citizens in the United States.
In the light of recent developments, I understand the sense of worry among many Irish people at home and in the US. Our embassy in Washington and consulates remain in active and ongoing contact with Irish immigration centres throughout the US and we will continue to monitor developments in this area very closely. However, for Ireland and for the international community, we need to analyse the situation as it develops, assessing the implications and making clear our concerns and reservations to our friends in the US. This is not a time to cut off dialogue or to abandon important opportunities for communication with the highest levels of the US government. On the contrary and staying true to our values, we need to use those opportunities to put forward our point of view and to seek to influence our interlocutors in a constructive direction.
I will use my visit to Washington this week to do exactly that and I know an Taoiseach will do likewise when in the White House for St Patrick's Day.
Neither is this the time to place a question mark over the continued operation of the US pre-clearance facilities at Dublin and Shannon airports.
Some 1.2 million passengers availed of these facilities in 2016. Many other countries envy the pre-clearance arrangements our citizens enjoy. I believe we should maintain them.
The relationship between Ireland and the US will continue to flourish because it is not based on any single element, but on a multiplicity of strands, be they personal, professional, historical, contemporary, cultural, or sporting. Above all, it is based on people and family ties and on a shared belief in democracy and the rule of law, as well as the rights and dignity of all, irrespective of origin, religion or ethnicity.
These are the values which have bound our two countries, and the US and Europe more generally, and will underlie the Government's approach in dealing with the challenges that face us in a new political context in Washington DC.