US president Donald Trump says he may travel to Ireland as early as next year.
During the annual Oval Office meeting, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar extended the invitation first given to Mr Trump by Enda Kenny last year.
Asked if he will make a trip to Ireland, Mr Trump said: “I will. I love it. I have property there. I may never get to see it again.”
Mr Trump, who wore a green tie and a bunch of shamrock, was asked if he would play golf in Ireland and then asked the Taoiseach whether he plays golf.
Mr Varadkar said: “No, but I’m always willing to learn so we can take you for a few rounds.”
Pushed on the timing of a possible Irish trip, Mr Trump said it might boost his re-election campaign.
“It might happen,” he said. “I look forward to being there.”
Mr Trump said it is “great” to have Leo Varadkar in the White House for the traditional St Patrick’s meeting.
“We are having some good talks about trade and about military and about cyber and all of the other things we are talking about,” he said.
After their 40-minute meeting, the Taoiseach said no date for a trip was given but Mr Trump “is a president that knows Ireland, that has property in Ireland and has links to Ireland”.
During their meeting, Mr Varadkar also suggested a new trade deal between America and Europe. Afterwards, Mr Varadkar said Mr Trump is “very open” to the possibility of a new trade deal. It comes after Mr Trump announced a 25% import tariff on steel and 10% on aluminium which has prompted fears of a trade war. The EU has threatened retaliatory tariffs on US goods, including bourbon and jeans.
Mr Varadkar said they had spoken about trade and the president’s “enormous concerns that the United States isn’t being treated fairly when it comes to trade by China, by Europe”.
“I put across the view that maybe the best way to resolve that is through a new deal, a new trade deal between America and Europe, and the president seemed very open to that,” said Mr Varadkar.
The Taoiseach added that Mr Trump also raised the issue of the undocumented in America with him.
He said: “I think we have a measure of support and some enthusiasm from the administration to work on a solution for the thousands of Irish people who are here undocumented but who are hardworking tax-paying people who are very loyal to America.”
They also spoke about the Northern Ireland border and the threat Brexit poses to it.
“The president was very aware of the issues that could affect Northern Ireland if there were a return to a hard border and I think he is very much on our side in working to a solution to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Mr Varadkar.
The Taoiseach will have breakfast with US vice president Mike Pence today.
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