BaileNuachtAithisc an Taoisigh

Speech by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D. at the Vice President’s Residence, Washington, 15 March 2016


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Mr. Vice President,
Distinguished guests,

A Leas-Uachtaráin Biden, a Dhaoine Uaisle,

Is cúis áthais dom, agus do mo bhean chéile Fionnuala, bheith anseo libh inniu. Ar son rialtais agus muintir na hÉireann, beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh go léir.

It is wonderful to be back in Washington in this special week for Irish people the world over. I want to sincerely thank the Vice President and Jill for their hospitality over many years and for again hosting Fionnuala and myself at the historic Naval Observatory.

Mr Vice President, I want you to know that the thoughts and prayers of all your friends in Ireland have been with you and your family over what has been a difficult year personally for you and your family.

Last year, when Ireland became the first country in the world to approve marriage equality in a popular national vote, we were gratified by your characteristically warm words of congratulations when you described the Irish people’s vote as “a courageous stand for love and family”. Your support meant a huge amount to us all.

I also want to publicly thank you, not just for your outstanding public service to the people of the United States, but for your constant friendship and support to Ireland.

Ireland’s relationship with the United States remains critically important, in driving our economic recovery and contributing to the prosperity of our people.

Trade between our two countries is at an historic high. We have more and more Irish companies exporting to the US and opening offices here, to match the great American companies operating in Ireland.

Ireland has continued to see strong economic growth and job creation. This year, for the third year in a row, Ireland is expected to be the fastest growing economy in the EU.

Of course, we have to ensure that the fruits of this growth are experienced by all our people in every part of our country.

Northern Ireland
Mr. Vice President, you have shown a strong personal commitment to the Northern Ireland peace process.

I also want to recognise the contribution of Senator Gary Hart and to recall particularly the role played by Senator George Mitchell as he takes on the duty of Grand Marshal of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York.

We in Ireland will never forget how the steadfast support and influence of these great political leaders and many others in the United States have contributed to peace on our island.

Immigration reform
Mr. Vice President, I also want to thank you for your continued support for immigration reform.

I warmly welcomed the President’s executive actions on immigration. While we are fully aware that this remains a difficult and contentious issue, we continue to support efforts to deliver comprehensive immigration reform that not only helps the undocumented Irish migrants here in the US but also improves channels for legal migration between Ireland and America.

1916 commemorations
This is a very special year for Ireland, as we mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter rising, a pivotal event in our nation’s history which set Ireland on the path which ultimately led to our independence.

The inspiration of the United States, and of Irish-America, was critical to the men and women of 1916.

In marking this important anniversary, we recall the words of President Kennedy when he addressed the Irish Parliament in 1963 – “We need not feel the bitterness of the past to discover its meaning for the present and the future”.

It is fitting therefore that one of this year’s great celebrations will take place at the Kennedy Center here in Washington. The ‘Ireland 100’ festival will celebrate the past century of Irish arts and culture.

This will be among hundreds of other commemorative events taking place across the entire country, underlining the extraordinary ties which bind our people together.

Mr Vice President, I won’t let this opportunity pass without once more expressing my hope that you might be able to officially visit Ireland this year, to repay the gracious hospitality which you and Jill have offered on many occasions over the past number of years.

But for now, I want to thank you, and wish you all a very happy St Patrick’s Day. Beannacht Lá Fhéile Padraig go leir!