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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to make his D.C. ‘shamrock’ debut

The traditional Green Fountain on the White House South Lawn. Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy.

 

By Ray O’Hanlon

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will be in the United States next month for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Varadkar’s visit is expected to last a week with stops in Washington, D.C., New York, and a couple of other U.S. cities yet to be confirmed as destinations.

The visit will include a meeting in the White House on Thursday, March 15 with President Trump during which Mr. Varadkar will brief the president on a range of issues, including the North and Brexit.

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If the present situation continues, that encounter will come against a backdrop of no United States Ambassador in Dublin, and no U.S. envoy to the stalled North political talks.

Thursday’s program will also include the Speaker’s Lunch on Capitol Hill, which is traditionally attended by the president, and the annual gathering in the White House East Room where the celebrated crystal bowl of shamrock is presented by the taoiseach to the president.

Mr. Varadkar’s predecessor, Enda Kenny, carried out that duty last year and in a speech to the gathering made some pointed remarks regarding the contribution of Irish immigrants to the birth and growth of the United States.

The current immigration debate in Washington, if anything, is facing an even deeper impasse than was the case twelve months ago.

Mr. Varadkar is also likely to sit down with Vice President Mike Pence, either on Thursday morning, or possibly Friday morning.

On Thursday evening, the taoiseach will attend a reception hosted by the Irish ambassador to the U.S., Dan Mulhall.

Mr. Varadkar’s visit to New York is expected to include his attendance at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.

The symbolism of his presence at the parade is certain to prompt considerable media interest given that fact that Mr. Varadkar is the first openly gay leader of an Irish government.

The taoiseach’s visit is being preceded this week by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, who is in the U.S. for three days (See story, Page 2).

Mr. Coveney is lined up for a visit to China over the St. Patrick’s Day period (See story, Page 9).

Mr. Varadkar’s precise itinerary is yet to be finalized but his visits to cities other than Washington and New York will likely reflect Ireland’s expanding trade and diplomatic relationship with the world’s largest economy.

Mr. Varadkar, known as a straight talker, has been critical of President Trump, but has also rejected calls that a standing invitation to the 45th president to visit Ireland be rescinded.

It remains to be seen whether that invitation will be repeated during the taoiseach’s meetings with Mr. Trump.