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Last hurrah for Obama, Kenny

March 14, 2016

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Last year’s Shamrock Bowl presentation at the White House

By Ray O’Hanlon
[email protected]

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s visit to the U.S. for St. Patrick’s Day is going to be short.

But hopefully sweet.

Mr. Kenny has trimmed his Washington program given the post-election political uncertainty.

What was a two day visit will now be just one. And it will be tomorrow, Tuesday.

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But the visit will include the tradition centerpiece meeting with the president in the White House and will also take in a reception hosted by Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson.

This will be the final St. Patrick’s meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr. Kenny in their leadership capacities.

They have enjoyed a visibly warm relationship over the years and their last hurrah is certain to carry more than a whiff of nostalgia.

In advance of Mr. Kenny’s visit, the office of the White House Press Secretary released a statement.

It said: “President Obama will welcome Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny of Ireland to the White

House on Tuesday, March 15th, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and to discuss issues of mutual concern.

“The United States and Ireland enjoy a strong relationship; deep cultural, historic, and people-to-people bonds; and a shared commitment to advancing global peace, security, and prosperity.

“In the morning, the Vice President will host the Taoiseach for breakfast at the Naval Observatory, and the President and Vice President will meet with the Taoiseach in the Oval Office.

“That afternoon, the President will host a reception to celebrate his eighth St. Patrick’s Day at the White House.

“During the reception, the President and Taoiseach will participate in the annual Shamrock ceremony started by President Truman.

“Also on March 15th, the Vice President will meet with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Northern Ireland at the White House to discuss the Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements and progress being made toward building a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of Northern Ireland.

“St. Patrick’s Day is being celebrated at the White House early this year as the Taoiseach must attend an important European Council meeting in Brussels on March 17th.”

Meanwhile, with the pre-election government still in place, while the political parties attempt to sort out the inconclusive election result, sitting Irish government ministers will be undertaking their traditional St. Patrick’s Day visit to various corners of the globe.

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and eight ministers will travel abroad this year “to six priority markets for the promotion of trade, tourism, investment and education services,” said a release from Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Said the release: “The destinations reflect a strong emphasis on trade and diaspora links and have been identified as priority destinations by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade following consultations with the embassy and consulate network and state agencies including the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Tourism Ireland, Bord Bia and Science Foundation Ireland.

“With the international profile of St. Patrick’s Day the envy of countries around the world, the programme of visits provides a very valuable and unique annual opportunity to promote Ireland abroad, develop our trade and economic links with overseas markets, as well as connect with the Irish diaspora, not least in this historic 1916 Centenary Year.

“The 2016 programme is, however, significantly reduced from that delivered in 2015. It will focus on trade, investment and tourism promotion in a smaller number of destinations in North America, Europe, and Asia. In each location, ministers will undertake a number of meetings with political figures and support Irish community and trade events organised by the embassy network, the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Tourism Ireland, Bord Bia and Science Foundation Ireland.

“The most significant meeting will be the Taoiseach’s meeting with the U.S. President, Barack Obama, in Washington D.C.”

Mr. Flanagan will also visit Washington but will additionally represent the government at St. Patrick’s Day celebration in New York. Minister Heather Humphreys will be in Boston, Minister Alan Kelly will be in Sacramento, San Francisco and San Diego while the Government Chief Whip and minister of State, Paul Kehoe, will be traveling to Philadelphia, Albany, NY, Trenton, NJ and Savannah, Georgia.

Other ministerial visits will take in London, Paris, Rome, Milan, Madrid and India.

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