Kenny to discuss illegal Irish immigrants with Obama

Taoiseach to present shamrock at White House today

Taoiseach Enda Kenny waves to the audience gathered before giving a speech to the George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management in Washington. Photograph: Reuters

Taoiseach Enda Kenny waves to the audience gathered before giving a speech to the George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management in Washington. Photograph: Reuters

Tue, Mar 19, 2013, 06:01

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will present a bowl of shamrock to President Barack Obama today in the White House to mark the official St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Washington.

Extending a tradition dating back to 1952, the shamrock-giving ceremony will be held in public while Mr Kenny and Mr Obama will speak privately about the plight of the 50,000 illegal Irish immigrants in the US, the proposed EU-US trade agreement and its potential to create jobs in Ireland, as well as the state of the Irish economy.

Afterwards, Mr Kenny and the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore will travel to Capitol Hill for the traditional St Patrick’s Day lunch and will later meet senior US politicians, including former Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Democratic senators Pat Leahy and Chuck Schumer where the Irish “undocumented” will be the main topic of discussion.

The lunch, hosted by Republican speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, is one of the few occasions in the Washington political calendar when the president travels from the White House to Capitol Hill for an annual public event.

In a series of speeches in the US capital yesterday, Mr Kenny pitched a confident message of Ireland’s prospects for growth over the coming years.

The Irish people had given the Government a “resounding mandate” to make difficult decisions and help rescue the economy, he said.


Opinion poll
Asked about the Labour Party slumping to 9 per cent in a weekend opinion poll, Mr Kenny’s coalition partner Mr Gilmore said that he was more concerned about getting the country “back on its feet economically”.

“We are not going to flinch from this task,” he told reporters following a meeting with US secretary of state John Kerry.

After the meeting, Mr Gilmore told reporters the government was two years into a five-year term and that it planned to “stay the course” to get the country through its biggest economic crisis since the foundation of the state.

The St Patrick’s Day visits to the US and other parts of the world were part of this plan, he said, as government ministers try to encourage investment, trade and exports, and to secure and create Irish jobs.