Leaders’ green handshake may herald second visit by ‘Irish man’ Obama
Taoiseach says US president ‘reaffirmed his intention’ to come back to Ireland
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with US president Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times
A bark by Bo, the presidential hound, in the grounds of the White House sounded shortly before the start of the fifth shamrock summit of Barack Obama ’s presidential years.
Inside, Obama greeted Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Oval Office, both wearing green ties and sprigs of shamrock for the cameras, while Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore stood off to the side, green with envy.
Ties between the countries featured prominently at the meeting to mark Washington’s official St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Obama spoke about the “incredibly strong partner- ship” between Ireland and the US on economic issues.
The president said Kenny had “shown great leadership in difficult times”, while the Taoiseach wished him “good fortune in the very onerous responsibilities on his shoulders as the leader of the free world”.
Kenny spoke of th e “wonder- ful tradition that American governments over the years have shown to Ireland,” while the US president spoke again about how Ireland “punches above its weight internationally ”.
“It’s an example of how the progress made in Ireland benefits jobs and business here in the US,” said Obama.
The Taoiseach couldn’t resist flying a little higher in this year’s meeting, noting he was meeting Obama not just as Taoiseach but as Ireland holds the presidency of the E U.
“I should say this, because I will never get the chance again. It is great to meet on presidential terms – the president of the United States, an Irish man, and the president of Europe, an Irish man,” he said.
The president said the annual St Patrick’s Day handover of shamrock gave him “an excuse to break out my green ties ”.
The big question was whether Kenny could tie the president to another Irish visit.
“Maybe the next time, when our economies are moving in a more positive direction, we might actually have time to take out the sticks on the golf course,” said the Taoiseach.
Speaking after meeting the president in private, Kenny said Obama “reaffirmed his intention to come back to Ireland.”