US Vice President Mike Pence confirms visit to Ireland

US Vice President Mike Pence has said his country stands with Ireland as Brexit continues and will expand trade between the two nations.

Welcoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at his private residence in Washington DC, Mr Pence also confirmed he is making plans to travel to Ireland, writes Juno McEnroe, Political Correspondent in Washington DC.

Mr Varadkar was joined by his partner Matt Barrett at the breakfast meeting, alongside an Irish delegation and US congressmen.

Mr Pence expressed solidarity with Ireland as Brexit continues, saying the US “stands with the Republic” and that the US “looks forward to expanding trade” with Ireland.

“The US also stands with the Irish Republic as the UK continues to work through issues with Brexit,” he said.

Mr Pence is also making plans to travel to Ireland and Co Sligo and Co Clare and is making plans to visit his “grandfather’s homestead”.

The one condition, which he agreed to with Mr Varadkar, was that he would bring his mother, guests at the observatory residence were told.

The Taoiseach said he looked forward to seeing Mr Pence in Ireland in the next year or two.

Mr Varadkar also delivered a powerful speech in which he described there was a time in Ireland where, if he tried to be himself, he would have broken laws. Instead, he now stood as a leader of a country in the Vice President’s home and was not judged by his “sexual orientation”.

Mr Pence has been a vocal critic of gay marriage and in one previous speech suggested that it would lead to “societal collapse”.

But Mr Varadkar, describing growing up in Ireland, told the guests:

“I knew at the time that I lived in a country where if I tried to be myself at the time, it would have ended up breaking laws but today that has all changed.

“I stand here, leader of my country, flawed and human but judged by my political actions and not by my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender or religious beliefs.”

Mr Varadkar later this morning will meet US president Donald Trump in the White House.

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