Pence's welcome to Ireland thaws as he throws support behind Boris and Brexit

Pence's welcome to Ireland thaws as he throws support behind Boris and Brexit
Vice President Mike Pence and Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park.

"Call me Leo," the Taoiseach said as he welcomed American vice president Mike Pence to Farmleigh House.

The pair have now met three times in the past two years, so Leo obviously thought they are on first-name terms at this stage.

Mr Varadkar had invited the vice president to Ireland during his St Patrick's Day trip to Washington on the condition that he bring along his mother, Nancy whose father left Ireland in 1923.

Along with his mother, the VP was accompanied by his wife Karen and sister Ann Poynter.

Perhaps the Taoiseach was just relieved to welcome a US politician with, in Leo's own words, a "real and very recent connection" to Ireland.

However, the friendship seemed to have thawed by the time both men, and their families, had finished their lunch of Dublin Bay prawns, pan-roast Coopershill venison fillet and a nice slice of Bailey's cheesecake.

In statements after their meeting and meal, Mr Pence made it clear that the US backs Boris Johnson and his decision to take Britain out of the EU.

As the deadline for Brexit approaches he went on to urge Ireland and the European Union to negotiate "in good faith" with the British prime minister and to work to reach an agreement that "respects the UK's sovereignty and minimises disruption to commerce".

Ms Ann Poynter, Mrs Nancy Pence-Fritsch Vice President Mike Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, Matthew Barrett, Varadkar’s partner and Leo Varadkar, An Taoiseach at Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park.
Ms Ann Poynter, Mrs Nancy Pence-Fritsch Vice President Mike Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, Matthew Barrett, Varadkar’s partner and Leo Varadkar, An Taoiseach at Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park.

Afterwards, with the Taoiseach's side in a bit of a flap, the spin machine cranked up and journalists were assured that their private meeting had been very productive - the Taoiseach himself described it as "marvellous" - both leaders were said to have strongly agreed that the Good Friday Agreement must be protected and Mr Pence even cited his "close friendship" with former special envoy for Northern Ireland George Mitchell.

But there was still plenty of time for some plámásing from the VP, no doubt a skill he had learned back almost 40 years ago when he spent more than a month in Ireland.

"We have both been blessed with Irish mothers," Mr Pence told the Taoiseach after meeting his parents and partner Matt Barrett at lunch.

Then, there was a message directed at the millions of voters back in the US who see themselves as Irish, whether that link be real and recent or not so real and no so recent.

"I first came to Ireland the year my grandfather passed in 1981. I saw the two-room house he grew up in. I spent weeks cutting turf in the peat bogs.

"I learned how to pour a proper pint working in Morrissey's pub in Doonbeg.

"I met people with broad smiles and strong opinions and I came to realise that I carry around Ireland with me wherever I go.

"Just like more than 30 million trace their heritage to the Emerald isle, and Irish Americans have enriched our nation since its earliest days," he said.

The Vice President being shown the service records of his grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, who served with distinction in the Irish Defence Forces during the Civil War.
The Vice President being shown the service records of his grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, who served with distinction in the Irish Defence Forces during the Civil War.

And Mr Pence will now be able to carry proof of this Irishness back to America with him. During his visit to Farmleigh, the Taoiseach showed Mr Pence service records for his grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, who hailed from Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo and who served with distinction in the Irish Defence Forces during the Civil War.

Mr Varadkar presented the VP with a framed copy of the archive containing his grandfather's signature.

Earlier in the day, Mr Pence had remembered his Irish heritage when he signed the visitor's book in Áras an Uachtarain.

"In the memory of a great Irishman, Richard Michael Cawley (Mr Pence's maternal grandfather) and on behalf of the United States of America - we are delighted to be back in Ireland," he wrote.

After his tour of Phoenix Park's grand houses in which he took in the Áras, Farmleigh, and the US ambassador's residence, it was back to his roots in Co Clare for dinner in his cousin's pub in Doonbeg before retiring to Donald Trump's resort close by.

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