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Enda gives himself day off to see sights ahead of White House visit

ENDA Kenny is set to take tomorrow off as a 'private day' in New York, the Herald can reveal.

The Taoiseach and his wife Fionnuala have scheduled some downtime during their St Patrick's Day trip to America.

Mr Kenny has a series of meetings in Chicago, New York, Indiana and Washington -- but not tomorrow.

The five-day jaunt culminates in the White House where the Irish delegation will be hosted by Barack Obama.

But before that he will take time to enjoy the sights of New York with his wife.

Delivering the annual St Patrick's Day address on the Government's glossy new website last night, Mr Kenny said he'll be taking a very clear message with him on the trip.

"We should never lose sight of the fact that despite these difficult economic times, that we have a unique heritage, a culture and a history to be really proud of," he said.

"It means a lot to a great many people across the globe to call them Irish.

"The Government will be very busy selling the message that our country is open for business, that Ireland has many qualities that can attract new business and new jobs to our shores."

Meanwhile, speaking during his St Patrick's Day trip to Paris, Michael Noonan buoyantly predicted that our economy is poised to "take off like a rocket" if global conditions ripen.

The Finance Minister has claimed that the past three and a half years of austerity have made Ireland stronger and more competitive.

And he confidently reaffirmed the Government's aim that the country can make its much-needed return to the bond markets in 2013.

Mr Noonan was speaking in Paris, where he rang the bell to mark the opening of European stock markets.