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President Obama meets with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny

March 20, 2012|By Ian Duncan
  • Speaker of the House John A. Boehner, from left, President Obama, Prime Minister of Ireland Enda Kenny and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) walk out of the Capitol after a Friends of Ireland luncheon.
Speaker of the House John A. Boehner, from left, President Obama, Prime… (Michael Reynolds / EPA )

Reporting from Washington — President Obama donned a green tie and squired Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny around Washington for a day of meals as part of an extended St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

After breakfasting with Vice President Joe Biden, Kenny met Obama in the Oval Office.

“Technically, it’s not St. Patrick’s Day,” the president said. “We like to prolong the party around here.”

Turning to more serious issues, the president said he was confident Kenny would be able to “get Ireland moving again.”

The next stop on the party tour was the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon with House Speaker John A. Boehner at the Capitol, where tenor David O'Leary sang. After the lunch, the prime minister, Boehner and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) escorted President Obama to his car outside the Capitol, while the U.S. Air Force Reserve Pipe Band played. Kenny will be back at the White House for a reception Tuesday evening.

Later in the afternoon, Kenny briefed members of Congress on Ireland’s economy and relationship with Europe. King, who chairs the Friends of Ireland group, described the meeting as “extremely fruitful.”

Despite the sunny rhetoric, the visit comes at a tough time for Ireland, where more than 14% of people are unemployed and where many are immigrating to the Britain and Australia in seek of work.

Ireland’s economic relationship with America is important. The United States is the biggest destination for its exports and the country’s second-largest source of imports, and American investment has been an important source of growth in Ireland.

In an article in The Hill newspaper, Kenny argued that Ireland was recovering. “There has never been a better time to invest in Ireland. The Irish economy is growing again,” he wrote. “Our public finances are under control and my government is using its strong political mandate to build upon this progress to deliver long-term and sustainable growth.”

President Obama visited Ireland in May of last year and Kenny said he has invited King to visit next year.

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