A green day all the way as Joe Biden drops the ball

Oh no. Uncle Joe dropped the ball.

Just seconds into Enda Kenny’s arrival at the US vice-president’s home for breakfast to celebrate all things Irish, there was an almighty clanger.

Amid the stalled talks in the North, politicians from all sides are walking on eggshells, so to speak — but not Joe Biden.

The vice-president, renowned for his gaffes, probably didn’t realise the extent of the faux pas he made about the North as he greeted Mr Kenny, his wife Fionnuala, and the hungry press pack on the steps of his residence.

“Happy St Patrick’s Day,” said Biden. “Anyone wearing orange is not welcome in here... Only joking.”

Whether he forgot the political relevance of the colours in the tricolour or was a bit too much his usual light-hearted self, we’ll never know, but Uncle Joe quickly recovered from the embarrassing slip as he, members of the US Congress, and Irish-Americans tucked into their St Patrick’s Day breakfast.

“We need genius on all sides right now to lock this agreement down,” he contended, as he praised Mr Kenny and reflected on the poetry of WB Yeats.

It was all very Irish indeed. Others who ate at the gathering included Joe Kennedy, grand-nephew of the late 35th president, hotelier John Fitzpatrick, and senators, including Patrick Leahy, who has helped lead the charge to reform immigration laws for the Irish in the US.

Mr Biden also let us in on a secret of what helped make him a good speaker in the US Senate and in his office.

Reflecting on reading Yeats’s poetry as a child, when he said he had trouble studying, he explained: “At night I’d get up and turn on a flashlight and stand beside the mirror and recite as much of his poetry and prose as I could and try to learn how to not contort my face when I spoke and when I stuttered. He inspired me then and he inspires me still.”

Later in the White House, the North and immigration reform for the 50,000 illegal Irish in the US were the two main topics of discussion for Mr Kenny and President Barack Obama, who was also given a book of Yeats’ poetry.

“In addition to all its wonderful exports, at the top of the list it has to be poetry for the Irish,” Mr Obama told reporters inside the White House.

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The water in the fountain on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, is dyed green for St Patrick’s Day

It was then on to an afternoon lunch on Capitol Hill, where the Taoiseach sat next to House of Representatives leader John Boehner, who is opposed to the proposed immigration reform.

One wonders what they discussed between courses.

Just yards from Mr Kenny and Mr Obama also sat Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, while a few tables down, former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan looked on.

All things considered, the Irish music being played by the legendary Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones was the only way to keep everyone nodding heads in agreement.


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