LEO VARADKAR is undertaking one of the shortest St Patrick’s Day trips to the US by a Taoiseach in recent memory, with just 24 hours of engagements in Washington DC tomorrow.
The caretaker Taoiseach arrived in the US capital yesterday evening, where a state of emergency has been declared by the city’s mayor, having already cancelled engagements in New York on Tuesday to deal with the emerging coronavirus crisis at home.
As the outgoing Government deals with an unprecedented public health emergency and Fine Gael begins talks on forming a historic coalition with Fianna Fáil, Mr Varadkar’s third trip to the White House as Taoiseach has become something of a footnote to an extraordinary week.
He will meet President Donald Trump in the Oval Office knowing it may not be the last time he does so – the Taoiseach’s office is not one he will relinquish easily in the
Last night he attended the annual Ireland Funds dinner, which went ahead despite the city’s mayor issuing an advisory that all mass gatherings be postponed.
Mr Varadkar had been due to speak at a St Patrick’s Day business leaders’ luncheon earlier in the day.
Irish ambassador Dan Mulhall instead delivered his speech, noting the importance of US investment in Ireland, expressing concern over the impact of US trade tariffs on the cost of butter and cream liquor and highlighting Ireland’s low 12.5pc corporation tax rate is supported by all three of the largest parties.
Today Mr Varadkar is attending a breakfast with Vice President Mike Pence. Unlike last year, when the Taoiseach’s partner Matt Barrett attended, the media is banned from the event.
Mr Varadkar will attend Capitol Hill for the House Speaker’s lunch hosted by Nancy Pelosi before heading to the White House for a scaled-down shamrock ceremony.
Fears that all events would be cancelled abated yesterday as Mr Trump sought to downplay the seriousness of the coronavirus amid concerns about the US economy.