Kenny praises ‘fighting Irish’ rugby team after Six Nations victory

Taoiseach tells Boston gathering ‘America will be the better’ for immigration reform

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has heaped praise on Ireland's Six Nations Championship-winning rugby team, saying that the players showed "incredible courage" to win the game against France.

Mr Kenny, who watched yesterday's match in Washington, said that the game was almost in danger of being a repeat of the game against New Zealand last year that the team lost in the final minutes.

"It was a very physical match but fair play to them - they epitomised what the fighting Irish can do," he said, speaking after the traditional St Patrick's Day breakfast in Boston hosted by local politicians.

Speaking afterwards alongside Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, the son of Co Galway immigrants, Mr Kenny likened the Irish rugby team's victory to last year's World Series winning baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, noting how that team won after the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings.

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“My message is always when we apply ourselves to a single objective, there’s actually that is nothing can stop us, not even Les Bleus on this occasion,” Mr Kenny told reporters.

In his speech at the breakfast, the Taoiseach told guests that since the country’s economic crash the Irish people were “fighting back as we know that they can”.

Referring again to Irish immigrants in the US, Mr Kenny said that he had visited the Vietnam War memorial in Washington and seen the name of an Irishman who fought and died in the late 1960s.

“It is important to understand the psychological benefit of so many people being released to pay their way, to pay their taxes, to raise their families and travel home and abroad is so important for America, he said.

He said it was the responsibility of legislators and political representatives to overhaul immigration laws. “America will be the better for it,” he said.

Mr Kenny addressed 1,000 people at the breakfast where the speakers included Massachusetts senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, governor Patrick Deval and Congressman Stephen Lynch.

The convivial breakfast, where local politicians poked fun at rivals and colleagues in the state legislature, was hosted with irreverent humour by the effervescent Linda Dorcena Ferry.

The Taoiseach immersed himself in the humorous spirit of the occasion, joking: "In the words of Samuel Johnson, the Irish after a very fair people - they never speak well of each other."

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent