Orange alert as gaffe-prone Joe Biden gets egg on his face
Sweetness, light and Republican fellowship for Enda Kenny and Barack Obama
Taoiseach Enda Kenny being welcomed at the Oval Office by US president Barack Obama during his St Patrick’s Day visit to the White House in Washington. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Gaffe-prone US vice-president Joe Biden was up to his old tricks on St Patrick’s Day.
He was apparently so fixated on the wearing of the green that he dropped a clanger when welcoming Taoiseach Enda Kenny and wife Fionnuala to his Washington residence. “Anyone wearing orange is not welcome in here,” Mr Biden said at the door of Number One Observatory Circle.
Coming at such a sensitive time for Northern Ireland, with the impasse over welfare reform continuing, the remark hung in the air for a good four seconds before Mr Biden finally added: “Only joking.”
The Prince Philip moment went unremarked upon by the Kennys, who probably judged the best thing they could do was just keep smiling.
At his St Patrick’s Day breakfast, Mr Biden called Mrs Kenny “Fiona” but rectified his mistake at the second mention of her name.
Mrs Kenny betrayed no signs of displeasure but then her husband has silently endured the indignity of being called “Edna” in public on a number of occasions.
In fairness to Mr Biden, he soon redeemed himself with strong and apparently well-informed comments about the Stormont House Agreement. “We need genius on all sides to lock this agreement down,” he said.
Mr Kenny’s later meeting with Mr Biden’s boss at the White House appeared to pass off more smoothly. Immigration reform was the big issue for the Taoiseach, although he had tempered expectations of a breakthrough for undocumented Irish the previous day by pointing to Republican control of Congress.
Speaking in the Oval Office after his bilateral with Mr Kenny, Mr Obama took the opportunity for a little domestic political griping.
Mr Obama, tongue placed firmly in cheek, said he and Mr Kenny would soon head over to Capitol Hill for “some friendship and fellowship on a bipartisan basis” at the Speaker’s Lunch hosted by Republican John Boehner.
“I should mention that I was hoping for a little luck of the Irish as the Republicans put forward their budget today,” he said.
But all was sweetness and light during his meeting with Mr Kenny, Mr Obama made clear. “As usual the biggest challenge I have when I meet with the Taoiseach is finding something we disagree on. It’s very hard because we’re great partners and he’s a great friend.”
Speaking of fellowship with Republicans, who should be seated at the table next to Mr Kenny at the Speaker’s Lunch but Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams?
They were entertained by a four-piece playing a familiar tune.
“North men, south men, comrades all / Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Donegal / We’re on the one road, swinging along / Singing a soldier’s song.”