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Speech by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., At the St. Patricks’ Day Breakfast of Vice-President Pence Naval Observatory, Washington DC 16 March 2018

 

Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Pence, Distinguished Guests, friends of Ireland.

May I begin by thanking you, Mr. Vice-President and your wife Karen, for hosting us this morning.

It is both an honour and a pleasure to be here.

The warmth of your hospitality is an extension of the welcome that I have received throughout this St Patrick’s Day visit.

With 35 million Americans tracing their ancestry back to our Atlantic island home, it is no wonder that St. Patrick's Day is marked with a special enthusiasm in this country.

That number includes many who live and work right here, in your nation’s capital. We had wonderful reminders of that yesterday in the White House, on Capitol Hill, and at the Ambassador’s St. Patrick’s Day reception, on what was a truly remarkable day.

Mr. Vice-President, it has also been my pleasure to make the acquaintance this morning of another wonderful Irish American - your own mother, who has made the long journey to be here, and is clearly a proud member of the Irish Diaspora.

In Ireland this year it is Bliain na Gaelige, when we celebrate our national language.
I understand that as a child Vice-President Pence could recite the nursery rhyme, ‘Humpty Dumpty’ in Irish after learning it from his grandfather. I won’t embarrass him by asking him how much he remembers. I won’t embarrass myself by admitting I only know it in English.

As you know, the Vice-President’s grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, was a remarkable man who left Doocastle in Co. Mayo, near Tubbercurry in Co. Sligo, as a young man because his mother had faith he would find a future here. A patriot and a proud family man, he built a new life in Chicago, and raised his children to love both Ireland and the United States. His mother’s dream was fulfilled.

Mr. Vice-President, you have spoken also of your own visits to Ireland, both as a young man and then later, bringing Karen and your children to Sligo.

Not to forget, of course, your visits to your cousin’s bar in Doonbeg, now in direct competition with your boss’s slightly larger establishment across the street.

We are proud to see that the American Dream is still being realised.

Ireland has a unique relationship with America, going back centuries, even before the founding of this great Republic, a struggle in which Irishmen and women played a prominent role.

Irish hands signed the Declaration of Independence, and Irish arms helped make it a reality.

Our countries’ relationship is more than one of friends, it is closer to one of family. It is also reciprocal.

We helped create the Republic, and you helped make Ireland the country she is today.

To give just one powerful example. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’, a pivotal moment in the modern history of Ireland. This Agreement was approved by the people of the entire island north and south, and owed much to the support of the United States, and the able guidance of Senator George Mitchell.

That Agreement has stood the test of time. There have been bumps in the road, some serious, but the United States has always been by our side.

While Northern Ireland has been free of serious violence for two decades, it continues to be beset by political divisions.

The Power Sharing Executive, a cross-community assembly, has not met for more than a year now.

I know we can count on this country to continue in its historic role as a supporter of our peace process and our right to self-determination.

Though are countries are different in size, our dreams are similarly ambitious. So we have a partnership of political and economic substance.

The United States and Ireland enjoy an exceptional economic relationship, which is delivering jobs and prosperity to both countries.

Here in the US, over 100,000 Americans work in Irish owned companies, employing people in every one of the 50 states.

Our two countries trade nearly 2 billion dollars’ worth of goods and services every week of the year.

It is clearly in our mutual interests not only to sustain this trade and investment, but to continue to grow it in the years to come.

One of the most meaningful Irish proverbs is ‘Ní neart go chur le chéile, ‘together we are strong’. This is as true today as at any other point in our history.

The Atlantic - for so long a barrier between Europe and North America - is now a by-word for of the most important economic and political relationship in the world, a transatlantic alliance that has shaped and kept the global order for over 75 years.

Let us look forward to, and work towards, an ever stronger relationship between the United States and Europe.

Mr. Vice President, let me finish as I began, by thanking you for your hospitality to me and my delegation. We would be delighted to return the hospitality when you next visit Ireland.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh go léir. A happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone.

Thank You.