Kenny says Obama 'reaffirms intention' to return to Ireland
Leaders meet in Oval Office for traditional St Patrick’s Day shamrock ceremony
President Barack Obama meets Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington today. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said US president Barack Obama has ’reaffirmed his intention’ to return to Ireland for a second official visit.
Following a private meeting with the president afterwards, the Taoiseach said Mr Obama had accepted an invitation to visit Ireland again but was unable to say if he would do so during his second term as president.
"There is a standing invitation for the president, the first lady and their family to visit whenever it is appropriate and convenient. I can say to you that he has reaffirmed his intention to come back to Ireland,” Mr Kenny said.
Speaking earlier during a photo opportunity in the Oval Office, the president said that the US “cherishes the opportunity to once a year to reaffirm the incredible bond between our two countries”.
On the fifth visit of a Taoiseach to the Oval Office during Mr Obama’s presidency, the US leader described his trip to Ireland in 2011 as “one of the truly wonderful trips I’ve taken as president of the United States.
“The reason that these meetings go so well is because of the incredible bonds of history between the two countries,” said Mr Obama.
“Obviously, the contribution of Irish Americans to the US is legendary but what is also true is that we have incredibly strong partnership on economic issues, on security issues.
“The Taoiseach has shown great leadership in difficult times in Ireland; and we’re seeing progress in the Irish economy and that’s good for the US economy.”
Ryanair announced earlier today the biggest-ever order of Boeing planes by a European airline, saying that it would buy 175 aircraft in what is seen as a major boost for the US company.
“It’s an example of how the progress made in Ireland benefits jobs and business here in the US. Obviously the Taoiseach is very interested as well in continuing to attract investment from the US to Ireland,” said Mr Obama.
This issue would also be a major topic of discussion between the leaders at their meeting after the photo opportunity, said the president.
Mr Obama also spoke about Ireland’s reputation in humanitarian work and peacekeeping.
“Ireland also punches above its weight internationally when it comes to humanitarian assistance, peace-keeping. Irish troops are in many difficult places in the world and provide the kinds of stabilisation and humanitarian effort that makes all the difference and saves lives,” he said.
Mr Obama said that he would to continue to discuss the progress made on the Belfast Agreement in Northern Ireland. “We also have to recognise that there is a lot more work to be done before there is true unity,” he said.