Latest: Taoiseach seeking deal over 'undocumented' Irish citizens living in US

Latest: Taoiseach seeking deal over 'undocumented' Irish citizens living in US
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents US President Donald Trump with a bowl of shamrock as Melania Trump looks on

Update 11.52pm: The Taoiseach has said he wants to "do a deal" with President Donald Trump on a solution for Ireland's "undocumented" citizens living in the US.

Leo Varadkar stressed the need for certainty for the tens of thousands of Irish who reside illegally in the United States - "living in the shadows" with the threat of deportation hanging over them.

Mr Varadkar used the traditional Shamrock presentation in the White House to offer Mr Trump a reciprocal resolution, though he stopped short of publicly outlining what Ireland would offer in return.

"I want to assure you, Mr President, that the Irish Government will continue to work with your administration to find a solution to this important issue," he said in a speech in the East Room of the White House.

"And we are ready to do a deal."

The shamrock presentation marked the last joint engagement for the two leaders in the traditionally packed schedule of St Patrick's events in the US capital.

Update 10.30pm: Taoiseach presents President Trump with bowl of shamrock

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has presented US President Donald Trump with the traditional bowl of shamrock at the White House.

President Trump told reporters Mr Varadkar is "doing a great job" as he greeted the Taoiseach outside the White House ahead of the traditional Shamrock bowl presentation.

US President Donald Trump, his wife Melania and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrive at the annual shamrock presentation ceremony.
US President Donald Trump, his wife Melania and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrive at the annual shamrock presentation ceremony.

He joked he would be welcoming Varadkar to the White House for St Patrick's Day "for around seven more years, I think".

Varadkar used his speech to highlight the undocumented Irish in the US.

"I know that the Irish people who have made their lives here, including those who are undocumented and living in the shadows, love this country dearly," he said.

They have the same dream as the men and women who inspired Washington, fought for Lincoln, and work alongside you today.

"They want to continue to contribute to the life of this great country, and continue to play their part. Their dream will never die."

Gerry Adams (centre) attends the annual shamrock presentation ceremony at the White House. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Gerry Adams (centre) attends the annual shamrock presentation ceremony at the White House. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Taoiseach also discussed trade between the US and Ireland.

"Irish firms employ more than 100,000 people here across all 50 states. Since you took office, Mr. President, 59 Irish companies have made new investments in this country. We are bringing jobs, good jobs.

Each and every week we trade $2 billion in goods and services back and forth across the Atlantic. We want that to grow.

Speech by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., at the St Patricks’ Day Reception

    Mr. President, First Lady, Vice-President, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

    Mr. President, on behalf of the Irish Government I want to thank you for taking the opportunity to celebrate our national day with the Irish Diaspora here in the US.

    For Irish people, and those of Irish descent all over the world, no matter where we happen to be, this is the time when we collectively celebrate who we are as a people.

    Nowhere is our day, St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated more enthusiastically than here in the United States, where 35 million Americans claim Irish ancestry.

    On Saturday I will be in your home town of New York, where I will have the honour of walking down 5th Avenue in the world-famous St. Patrick’s Day parade.

    Mr. President, events like this White House Reception, and parades around the country on Saturday, remind us of the ties that bind our two countries together.

    These ties are rooted in our shared history. As you said yourself in your Proclamation for ‘Irish-American Heritage Month’, the tenacious Irish spirit, paired with American self-reliance’, helped this country become great.

    The portrait of your first President, George Washington, looks down on us here in the East Room. President Washington called Ireland the ‘friend of my country in my country’s most friendless days’. His prayer was for ‘the sun of freedom to shed its benign radiance on the Emerald Isle’ and bring her prosperity and peace. For George Washington, we were the strangers who mustered around your flag.

    We supported the cause of American freedom from the very start - we shed our blood to help make it a reality.

    In the same way, the United States has helped build modern Ireland. One that is prosperous and at peace, self-confident about our place in the world, no longer an island on the periphery of Europe, but an island at the centre of the world.

    In my office I keep and I treasure a collection of speeches and letters by one of your greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln. Sometimes when there is a crisis with no obvious solution, I find wisdom in the words of the first Republican President.

    President Lincoln believed as he said: ‘When we talk, we are only repeating what we already know. But if we listen, we may learn something new’.

    President Trump and I met earlier and I believe by talking and listening we both learned things that will help our two countries move forward.

    President Lincoln was memorialised in verse for all time by the poet of your national imagination, Walt Whitman.

    Whitman, writing about Ireland, described it as ‘an isle of wondrous beauty’, and our people who were weathering a storm to cross the Atlantic.

    These were the men, women and children who found refuge and safe harbour in the United States.

    They chose the ‘New World’ to escape oppression, hunger and poverty, and endured the harsh and dangerous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

    They arrived in a new Republic where they were given the opportunity to create a new future.

    They were allowed follow their dreams, and those dreams became American. And so, the story of the Irish in America is as American as it is Irish.

    Today the Irish Diaspora is found in every state, every city, every neighbourhood in this country.

    We have prospered in politics, in business, in the arts, and in the service of fellow Americans. Many are here today.

    Many Irish serve today in The White House.

    I want to thank you, Mr. President, for the excellent meeting we had this morning in the Oval Office.

    We had a very worthwhile exchange of views on important issues, including trade, security and migration.

    I know that the Irish people who have made their lives here, including those who are undocumented and living in the shadows, love this country dearly.

    They have the same dream as the men and women who inspired Washington, fought for Lincoln, and work alongside you today.

    They want to continue to contribute to the life of this great country, and continue to play their part. Their dream will never die.

    I want to assure you, Mr. President, that the Irish Government will continue to work with your Administration to find a solution to this important issue. And we are willing to match any move with the same or better for Americans in Ireland.

    The best relationship between two countries is a fair transaction, with something given and received on both sides. A good deal – you might say.

    I believe, today, Ireland can act as a bridge between this great country and the European Union. And, more than ever, we are a strong and effective partner for you.

    Our economic relationship is a two-way street. Irish firms employ more than 100,000 people here across all 50 states. Since you took office, Mr. President, 59 Irish companies have made new investments in this country. We are bringing jobs, good jobs.

    Each and every week we trade $2 billion in goods and services back and forth across the Atlantic. We want that to grow.

    So, in the spirit of the long and close relationship between our two countries and our two peoples, it is my very great pleasure to present this year’s Shamrock bowl to you.

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Earlier: Taoiseach intervened with Clare County Council on behalf of Donald Trump

Update 5.55pm: The Taoiseach has revealed he made an intervention over plans to build a windfarm near Donald Trump's golf course in Clare after a request from the billionaire.

Speaking at the annual lunch in Capitol Hill, Leo Varadkar said both men had been in contact before when the Taoiseach, then Tourism Minister, had made representations for his Doonbeg resort to Clare County Council.

Mr Varadkar said: "We actually had been in contact before, before the president became president and I became Taoiseach, and it happened three or four years ago when I was minister for tourism.”

He said, while in London for the rugby match, “my assistant John Carroll said that there’s a call. Donald Trump wants to speak to you. And I just thought: This can’t be the case, this has to be a piss-take by one of my staff members.

“Surely, a businessman like Donald Trump would write a letter first and we would organise a meeting but as we all know president Trump doesn’t work like that, he is a very direct man, likes to get things done.

"So at the other end of the phone was Donald Trump saying to me that he had bought this resort in Ireland, in Co Clare, this beautiful golf resort called Doonbeg but that there was a problem nearby, somebody was trying to build a windfarm and that, of course, would have an impact on tourism and the beauty of the landscape.

“So I endeavoured to do what I could do about it and I rang the county council and enquired about the planning permission and subsequently the planning permission was declined and the windfarm was never built - thus the landscape being preserved - and the president has very kindly given me credit for that, although I do think it probably would have been refused anyway.”

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during the Speaker's Lunch at Capitol Hill. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during the Speaker's Lunch at Capitol Hill. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Labour Party Leader and spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Brendan Howlin TD has expressed concern that Taoiseach Varadkar intervened on behalf of US President Donald Trump over a proposal to build a wind farm near the President’s golf course in Doonbeg in Clare.

"The reports from Washington today that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has made political representations essentially on behalf of the business interests of President Trump are extraordinary," Deputy Howlin said.

The Taoiseach needs to make clear immediately the nature of these representations and if President Trump or a member of his family asked the Taoiseach to make them on his behalf.

"It would not be unusual for the Taoiseach of the day to make queries or representations on behalf of another nation when it comes to Government business but planning matters surrounding Doonbeg are clearly a private business matter for President Trump.

"There are particularly sensitivities for obvious reasons around politicians making representations to planning authorities and for good reason too.

"For the Taoiseach to be seen to meddle and intervene on planning processes at Doonbeg is entirely inappropriate."

Solidarity TD Mick Barry says the Taoiseach's comments put Irish politics in a bad light.

"I think it gives the impression that Ireland operates a bit like a banana republic, that you've got some billionaire businessman who picks up the phone to some government minister and the Irish government minister jumps to it."

Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen also shared his concerns.

"I was amazed to hear today that the Taoiseach made representations on behalf of Mr Donald Trump on a planning matter about wind turbines.

"What is even more bewildering is that it is only coming to light now when he is actually visiting him in the White House.

It seems extraordinary, particularly when the Taoiseach was so involved in giving his opinion on not wanting to invite President Trump to Ireland this time last year when Enda Kenny was Taoiseach. He was saying one thing in public and doing something very different in private.

"There is more to this than meets the eye and the Taoiseach needs to clarify exactly how and when he made the representations and whether or not it was appropriate.

"He also needs to clarify whether the call came from President Trump directly or from a person on his behalf.

"The public also need to know whether or not the representation interfered with the planning process in Doonbeg because it was coming from a Minister.

"Mr Varadkar needs to give a full account of this issue without delay."

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach has denied Leo Varadkar's intervention helped to secure a planning decision for Donald Trump's Doonbeg hotel.

The spokesperson said he raised a number of issues on behalf of Trump but his influence did not change the planning decision.

- Elaine Loughlin and Digital Desk

Earlier: Taoiseach suggests new trade deal between US and Europe in meeting with Trump

By Elaine Loughlin, Political Correspondent, in Washington

Update 5.15pm: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has suggested a new trade deal between America and Europe during a White House meeting with Donald Trump.

Mr Varadkar said President Trump is "very open" to the possibility of a new trade deal.

It comes after Mr Trump announced a 25% import tariff on steel and 10% on aluminium which has prompted fears of a trade war.

The EU has threatened retaliatory tariffs on US goods, including bourbon and jeans.

We spoke about Doonbeg and the President is very proud of his property and keen to visit at some stage.

"We also spoke about trade and the President's enormous concerns that the United States isn't being treated fairly when it comes to trade by China, by Europe and I put across the view that maybe the best way to resolve that is through a new deal, a new trade deal between America and Europe and the President seemed very open to that," said Mr Varadkar after his Oval Office meeting.

The Taoiseach added that the President had also raised the issue of the undocumented in America.

"I think we have a measure of support and some enthusiasm from the Administration to work on a solution for the thousands of Irish people who are here undocumented but who are hard-working tax-paying people who are very loyal to America," said the Taoiseach.

Earlier: Donald Trump tells Leo Varadkar he intends to visit Ireland as early as next year

By Elaine Loughlin, Political Correspondent, at the White House

Update 3.10pm: The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has met with US President Donald Trump in the White House, who confirmed he may travel to Ireland as early as next year.

“I will, I love it, I have property there,” the President said. Mr Trump said it was “great” to have the Taoiseach in the Oval Office.

“We are having some good talks about trade, military, about cyber and all of those things we are talking about,” he said.

“The relationship is outstanding and only getting better. A tremendous number of people are living in New York where I grew up and are living in the United States and these are truly wonderful people. We love them."

Mr Trump, owns the Doonbeg resort in Co Clare.

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meet for talks in the Oval Office. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meet for talks in the Oval Office. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mr Varadkar said that while he doesnt play golf, he is keen to learn and Mr Trump could bring him for a few rounds when in Ireland.

Mr Varadkar started by telling the president he had visited Texas where he met Gov Gregg Abbott which Mr Trump said was a “great story”.

The Taoiseach and President Trump travelled to Capitol Hill for the traditional Speakers Lunch.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's speech in at the Speakers Lunch on Capital Hill

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of Congress, Friends of Ireland and Distinguished GuestsIs cúis áthais dom, bheith anseo libh inniu. Ar son rialtais agus muintir na hÉireann. Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh go léir. Mr. Speaker, thank you for your kind invitation to join you this afternoon, to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with so many friends of Ireland, in this magnificent setting. This is a very special occasion for me. I worked here on Capitol Hill in the summer of 2000, as an intern for Congressman Jack Quinn of Buffalo, New York, who I know is a friend to many of you here. It is a great honour for me to return eighteen years later as leader of the Irish Government. This is a place which helped me develop my view of the world, and spurred me to pursue a career in public service. Today, in my office, I still keep a US flag which flew over the capital and was presented to me back then.I want to begin by thanking our host Speaker Paul Ryan, who is a longstanding friend of Ireland, and who proudly traces his roots to Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny. We had a chance meeting some years ago where he and his beautiful family visited the Irish Senate.I want to also thank President Trump for taking the time to be here with us today, continuing the remarkable tradition which was started back in 1983 by two great Irish-Americans, Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill. I want to thank Congress and the White House for your indispensable and steadfast support for the Northern Ireland Peace Process over the years.The members of the ‘Friends of Ireland’ caucus, so ably led by Congressmen Peter King and Richie Neal, have played a vital role. And the United States has been our steadfast partner. I know that you continue to stand resolutely with us as we work to ensure the beating heart of the Good Friday Agreement – its institutions – are restored and function properly. A Power-Sharing Executive, a cross-community Assembly, and north-south bodies.Mr. Speaker, immigration reform is a matter of long-standing concern in Ireland, especially for the families and friends of those Irish people who are currently undocumented. I appreciate the complexity and sensitivity of the political debate here. However, I might simply highlight their situation – hardworking, law-abiding, tax-paying Irish men and women who share your hopes and your values, who are patriotic and loyal to America – and urge a sympathetic look at this issue. And I thank you for working with my envoy, John Deasy, on this matter.It is a source of great pride to all of us to see the continuing powerful tradition of Irish American representation at the highest level in this country. Thank you all for your continued interest in, and affection for, Ireland. Mr Speaker, Mr. President, Friends of Ireland.There is an ancient piece of Irish wisdom which says that the greatest blessing comes to those who turn strangers into friends, and friends into family. For centuries we have been each other’s family and that is the blessing of the Irish-American relationship. Long may it continue. Thank you.

Earlier: Taoiseach to meet Donald Trump at White House today

Leo Varadkar will come face to face with Donald Trump for the first time when he meets him at the White House later today.

He is expected to raise a number of issues with the US President including the prospect of a trade war with Europe.

The Taoiseach will look for some assurances from Trump on the trade front with his recent tarrifs on goods threatening to spark a trade war with Europe.

He will also raise the issue of the undocumented Irish with the government hopeful some arrangement can be reached.

The Taoiseach has said in the past he would raise LGBT rights if he had the chance in the White House - and while he has said that he will mention it to Mike Pence this week, he has not confirmed if it will be part of the conversation with Donald Trump.

Leo Varadkar says dealing with a potential trade war between the EU and US will be a priority.

"The way these meetings work, when it's two heads of Government meeting, or two Ministers meeting, or two Cabinet Secretaries meeting, you have about 40 minutes

"And you have all the things that you really want to cover, and afterwards you always get asked: 'Did you mention this?', 'Did you raise that?', 'Did you mention this?', 'Did you raise that?', and you can't cover everything

"But very high in that list, I think, is going to be trade, and the risk of a drift in relationships between America and the European Union."

Leo Varadkar does not plan to bring up the issue of Russia after the events of the past few days, saying he wants to speak to British Prime Minister Theresa May to get her views about the alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK

Donald Trump and the Taoiseach will meet for about 45 minutes in the White House later on, where Mr Varadkar will also re-issue the invitation to visit Ireland.

Latest: Taoiseach seeking deal over 'undocumented' Irish citizens living in US

- Digital desk


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