Biden celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with Irish Prime Minister

WASHINGTON — The first clue on Friday was the fountain in front of the White House, which was dripping a brilliant Kelly green.

There was also the green tie and shamrocks in the breast pocket of the jacket President Biden wore to greet Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, or taoiseach, for his traditional St. Patrick’s Day visit. Not to mention the confirmation of Mr. Biden’s visit to Ireland next month.

But the real proof that the Oval Office is occupied by a fiercely proud Irish American was Mr Biden’s own tweet, noting his heritage as the “great-great-grandson of the Blewitts of County Mayo and the Finnegans of County Louth’.

“As the proud son of Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, I wish you all a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day,” the president wrote.

Mr Biden is only the second Irish Catholic to occupy the White House, after John F. Kennedy. (Ronald Reagan, who was also Irish American, beat him to the job by more than 40 years.) But the current president is perhaps most proud of his Irish roots, often saying he got his “Irish values”. ” from his mother. , who told him to treat people with respect and dignity.

His mother also told him not to bow to the Queen of England, advice he said he followed during two meetings with the monarch, first as a senator and then as president.

But while there have been Irish-English family tensions in Mr Biden’s past, he has also been a strong supporter of efforts to secure peace in Northern Ireland. The treaty that created the framework for that peace, known as the Good Friday Agreement, turns 25 this year and will serve as the reason for Mr Biden’s first visit to Ireland as president in April.

“I promise you we’re going to roll out the red carpet and it’s going to be a visit like no other,” Varadkar told the president ahead of their Oval Office meeting on Friday. “Everyone is already excited about it.”

This includes Mr. Biden.

The West Wing has been waiting months for the president’s likely visit in the spring. The official announcement only came when some ongoing power-sharing disputes in the countries were resolved, but Mr Biden has made it clear in recent days that he plans to make the trip to mark the anniversary of the Good Friday.

Aides and reporters expect a nearly giddy president when he returns to his ancestral homeland for the first time since assuming the post he has sought for decades. While speaking to lawmakers on Capitol Hill for the annual St. Patrick’s Day luncheon on Friday, Mr. Biden recalled a previous visit to meet members of his extended family in Ireland.

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“It was a great, great experience,” he said, joking that he had met many extended parents who “weren’t in jail.”

He remembered his grandfather, who told him that “the best drop of blood in you is Irish”. But it was another maxim from his grandfather that may have helped him succeed amid the bitterness and division of his campaigns.

“Joey, never bend, never bow, never kneel, never give in,” Biden recalled. “Never never.”

The president was introduced at lunch by his host, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, another Irish American politician and Mr Biden’s main opponent in Washington.

Mr. McCarthy struck a particularly warm note in his introduction, saying he wanted to have the kind of productive relationship with Mr. Biden that former President Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., also Irish American, had with Mr. Reagan.

“Our goals may be the same,” McCarthy said. “That we put this country first.”

It may take more than the luck of the Irish to pull it off at a time of intense disagreement and division in Washington – and a presidential election less than two years from now. But Mr. Biden tried to match Mr. McCarthy’s optimism.

Saying a phrase that is unlikely to be used very often in the days to come, Mr Biden said: “I agree with the speaker.”

“There’s no reason we can’t find common ground,” Biden said. “There’s no reason why we can’t hope to change this direction that the extremes on both sides are pushing.”

On Friday evening, Mr. Biden hosted a presentation and shamrock reception at the White House for Mr. Varadkar and others, capping a day celebrating the Irish.

The Irish prime minister praised the United States for supporting Ireland throughout its history, noting the support of Democratic presidents like Jimmy Carter and Republicans like Mr Reagan.

But, he said, Mr. Biden is special.

“As we know, every American president is a little Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” Mr. Varadkar told guests in the East Room of the White House. “But some are more Irish than others. And I think it’s fair to say that today we celebrate our national day with a president who is unmistakably a son of Ireland.

nytimes Eur

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