The US vice-president, Joe Biden, is to fulfil a long-standing promise to come to Ireland later this year, when he is expected to visit his ancestral home in the Taoiseach’s native Co Mayo.
He informed Enda Kenny of his plans at the traditional St Patrick’s Day breakfast, which took place at Mr Biden’s residence at Observatory Circle in Washington DC.
During a similar event in March 2011, Mr Biden signalled his wish to come to Mayo, and promised the Taoiseach a round of golf. However, it is understood that the President, Barack Obama, told Mr Biden to hold off until after his own visit to Ireland.
“I am very glad to hear you say you are coming to Ireland this year,” said Mr Kenny as he addressed journalists. “Just to say that publicly, to those of you down there in the fourth estate, Biden is on his way.
“The vice-president will come to Ireland this year and we hope that we can have a little round on the golf course if we get an opportunity.”
Meanwhile, sources say Mr Obama remains determined to visit Ireland with his family before the end of his second term. Expectation that he would travel south after attending the G8 summit in Co Fermanagh in June were dashed after he failed to announce a visit during his meeting in the Oval Office with Mr Kenny last Tuesday.
However, Mr Kenny extended a “standing invitation” and said Mr Obama indicated he wants to make a return visit.
Mr Kenny departed Washington last night, having completed the political leg of his tour, before embarking on a trade mission to the west coast of America.
He was last night due to meet film director Steven Spielberg in Los Angeles in an effort to promote Ireland as a location for movie production. They met in Government Buildings earlier this year when Mr Spielberg was in Dublin for the European premier of his blockbuster, Lincoln.
“The Taoiseach was happy to take up Mr Spielberg’s offer to meet with him when they met earlier this year,” a spokesman for the Taoiseach said. “We’re becoming much more competitive in terms of staffing costs in recent years and he is keen to further discussions in this area.”
At a White House reception for the traditional exchange of the bowl of shamrock on Tuesday night, Mr Obama said the experience of the Irish in the US was an example of why his country needs to “build an immigration system for the 21st century”.
He said: “A great nation is one that contributes more to the world than it takes out, and for that reason America owes a great debt to Ireland.”
He joked about the scores of staff that have Irish roots, including his new CIA director, new chief of staff, and new chief speech writer. He also played a special tribute to the outgoing Irish ambassador, Michael Collins.
The reception was hosted by Mr Obama and the First Lady, Michelle Obama, in the East Room of the White House.
Obama praise for GPA
US President Barack Obama has praised the efforts of the Gaelic Players Association who sent a work party of players and tradesmen to New York to help with the rebuilding effort following Hurricane Sandy.
In particular, Mr Obama referenced the work carried out in the Breezy Point community.
The GPA work party was headed by Players Association chairman Dónal Óg Cusack and former Dublin senior football manager Pat Gilroy. Tipp hurling star Lar Corbett, former Galway ace Ollie Canning, and Tyrone football legend Brian McGuigan were also among the group.
“A great nation is one that contributes more to the world than it takes out and, by that definition, America owes a profound debt of gratitude to the great nation of Ireland,” said Mr Obama.
“In fact, more than half of Breezy Point residents can trace their families to the old country, and the folks back in the old country were not about to sit by and watch their American brothers and sisters struggle alone.”
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