Obama flags issue of terrorist fighters during private meeting with Kenny

US President Barack Obama has flagged with Enda Kenny the issue of terrorist fighters from war zones travelling to Ireland and onwards to the US.

Mr Obama made his comments as the two leaders held their traditional St Patrick’s Day meeting in the White House.

Mr Obama also had praise for Ireland’s attempts to overcome the financial crash and for Mr Kenny’s leadership.

However, discussing the Middle East and other security issues with reporters after the meeting, Mr Obama said: “We had a chance to discuss the challenges in the Middle East and the importance of stemming the flow of foreign fighters both to Ireland and the United States and the rest of Europe, increasing deepening co-operation in counter terrorism and countering foreign fighter flows. We very much appreciate the co-operation that is being provided there.”

It is understood that, during their private meeting, Mr Obama flagged a UN resolution that promotes EU and US co-operation in dealing with foreign fighters.

The agreement is particularly important to Washington in relation to Islamic State fighters, who have vowed to attack Western nations. Gardaí recently said that as many as 30 fighters have left Ireland and travelled to the Middle East to join foreign conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

A top US military commander recently warned that Washington has concerns about some nations being unable to monitor fighters returning home from Syria. Fighters returning to Caribbean and South American countries could make their way into the US, said Gen John Kelly.

While Mr Obama was not specific in his remarks about the discussion with Mr Kenny, the comments could be interpreted as concern that fighters may use Ireland as a way of getting into the US.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama praised Mr Kenny’s leadership in leading Ireland out of the recession.

In remarks likely to help the Coalition’s re-election bid, the president said: “Ireland is on the move after a very challenging financial crisis and economic recession.

“Under the Taoiseach’s leadership, finances have stabilised, the economy’s growing again and unemployment is beginning to come down.”

Mr Kenny said he outlined Ireland’s progress in dealing with the deficit.

“I reminded him that it’s a fragile progress and our work’s not yet completed, so our challenge is to manage that carefully for the future, which is what we intend to do,” he said.

Both leaders also discussed the North, with Mr Obama saying more work needed to be done on the recent peace deal.

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