Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described support from the United States as “invaluable” to Ireland’s economic recovery.
In New York to attend the city’s annual St Patrick’s Day parade with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Mr Kenny said there was great kindness and affection between both countries.
“The Irish are found in every borough, every corner of New York,” the Taoiseach said.
“In previous generations they came heartbroken hungry in search of new life, new hope.Today they come in search of opportunity to work in finance, fashion, film.”
He told Mr Bloomberg and an audience at Gracie Mansion that Ireland has made significant progress since his visit last year.
He said the economy had entered its third year of consecutive growth, that competitiveness was up and prices had fallen back to 2003 levels.
“Your support has been invaluable in our drive for economic recovery,” Mr Kenny added.
As Ireland approaches the half-way point of its presidency of the European Union, the Taoiseach said the country was leading the drive for growth and job creation.
He also appealed to the US to attend The Gathering – Ireland’s year-long celebration of homecomings.
Mr Kenny said he hoped citizens with an Irish ancestry could find the time to return to their homeland to experience all that is “unique and wonderful” about Ireland.
“For many who sought refuge on America’s shores, their memories were the only valuables they brought with them,” Mr Kenny said.
“Memories of a rocky beach or of a laneway laden with fuchsia or the ban beside the house that they polished in their minds along with fading images of parents, siblings, friends.
“But some of them carried that final memento of home, taken from a hearth, perhaps given to them by a mother as they went out the door for the last time.”
He presented a replica of such an item to Mayor Bloomberg as a gift – an emigrant’s teapot from the National Museum of Ireland in Mayo.
“We greatly value your friendship and devotion to this wonderful city and your connections with Ireland,” Mr Kenny added.
“We’re here to celebrate our national day and who better to do that with than our own – all of you.”
Mr Kenny will attend the New York parade along Fifth Avenue today to mark Ireland’s national holiday, which falls on March 17.
It is the largest St Patrick’s Day parade in the world with up to two million expected to attend.
The Taoiseach will then travel to Washington DC to meet President Barack Obama, before travelling to the west cost to complete his annual St Patrick’s visit to the US.
Later, Mr Kenny told the Ireland Chamber of Commerce USA that 2012 had been a great year for US investment in Ireland.
He added that exports to the US also rose by 16%.
“This investment, this growth illustrate a deepening of the already-strong business relationship across the Atlantic,” he said.
“It’s clear that what works for Irish business works for American business.”