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Saturday, March 19, 2011

President Obama Addresses Guests at St. Patrick's Day Gathering at the White House on March 17, 2011


Good evening, everybody. Welcome to the White House on this beautiful St. Patrick’s Day. (Applause.) It was remarked upon that the fountain is the appropriate green this year. (Applause.) Last year, Michelle asked the White House team to make the fountain green, and it was a little tepid. (Laughter.) So people just thought there was algae in the fountain. (Laughter.) This year they made sure that there was no confusion, so we’re very happy about that. (Applause.)

I am not going to stand up here very long because, as the old Irish saying goes, everyone is wise until he speaks. (Laughter.) And I know we’ve got some entertainment to get to. But the Irish also tells us that what fills the eye fills the heart. And tonight, in this room filled with so many friends both old and new, I can’t imagine a better place to be than right here with the sons and daughters of Ireland -- and those who wish they were. (Laughter.)

I want to start by welcoming Taoiseach Kenny and his lovely wife, Fionnuala. Please give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) Now, poor Taoiseach, he’s only been in office for a little over a week. (Laughter.) He’s already jetlagged. (Laughter.) But I’m honored that he agreed to leave the unpacking for another day and fly across the ocean to be with us here tonight.

We also have more than a few Irish and Irish American friends in the house tonight. I want to thank our very talented performers, as well as the members of my administration and the members of Congress who are here. (Applause.) We are joined by three very Irish governors -- Martin O’Malley, Dan Malloy, and Pat Quinn. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)

Every year at this time, we’re reminded of just how many strands of green are woven into our American story. And even though St. Patrick’s Day has perhaps been better known for revelry than reflection, it’s also a chance for us to remember how the journey to America began for so many of our ancestors -- including, as I discovered as I was running for office, one of mine -- how millions of Irish boarded dank and crowded ships with a promise to send for their families later, often with no friends, no money, and nothing but hope waiting for them on the other side.

Like so many immigrants who came to call this country home, these men and women were guided by a deep faith and an unwavering belief that here in America a better life is available for anybody who’s willing to try. And even though they weren’t always welcomed in their new land, they persevered. They built and led and defended our country while still holding fast to their heritage. And in many ways, what it means to be Irish helped to define to what it means to be American.

That’s why today when we think about a Tip O’Neill -- whose daughter, by the way, is here tonight and his granddaughter, and it was wonderful to meet them -- (applause) -- or a Ronald Reagan, we see an example of how it’s possible to argue over policy without sacrificing friendship; how it’s easy to disagree without being disagreeable, if you make the effort.

When we think about a Henry Ford or a Cyrus McCormick, we see the ingenuity that has driven generations of Americans to build the businesses and create the inventions that have helped makes a nation an engine of prosperity.

When we think about an Audie Murphy or a John King, two of the hundreds of Irish Americans who have won the Medal of Honor, we see the heroism and bravery that comes with risking your own life for your country.

When we think about a family like the Kennedys, we see a steadfast belief in the importance of service and the duty each of us has to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. (Applause.)

In so many ways, the Irish and their descendants have set an example for us as a people. But they’ve also set an example for us as a nation struggling to be more just and more free. In 1845, Frederick Douglass, the great fighter for freedom here in this country, had just published his Narrative of a Life of an American Slave. And even as the book was a bestseller, Douglass began receiving steady streams of threats to his life.

So he decided to embark on a two-year lecture tour of the British Isles until things cooled down. He began by spending four months in Ireland, far from the threat of slave catchers, where he quickly found common ground with the people locked in their struggle against oppression.

As Douglass wrote, “I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life since landing in this country. I seem to have undergone a transformation. I live a new life.” It was at a Dublin rally that Douglass met the Irish nationalist Daniel O’Connell. And soon, the two struck up an unlikely friendship. O’Connell was a fierce opponent of slavery, and he began calling Douglass “the black O’Connell of the United States.” (Laughter.)

For his part, Douglass drew inspiration from the Irishman’s courage and intelligence, ultimately modeling his own struggle for justice on O’Connell’s belief that change could be achieved peacefully through rule of law. Daniel O’Connell never lived to see another great emancipator named Abraham Lincoln put pen to paper and bring slavery to an end. But the two men shared a universal desire for freedom -- one that cannot be contained by language or culture or even the span of an ocean.

And stories like this remind us just how deeply intertwined our two nations are. Nights like this remind us how much we share. And so as we celebrate together, let us take a moment to appreciate all that Ireland has given to America -- the faith we keep, the family we hold close, the laughter and song and warmth we feel when surrounded by the ones we love.

On behalf of the American people I want to thank the people of Ireland. In the years ahead, may our sons and daughters only grow closer. And now, I would like to present to you the Taoiseach of Ireland. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of you. Taoiseach. (Applause.)

Video: President Obama's Press Conference on St. Patrick's Day

Thursday, March 17, 2011

President Obama Announces His Trip to Ireland in May

At a press conference at the White House today, President Barack Obama confirmed that he is planning to visit Ireland in late May, 2011, as part of his European visit:

"I wanted to say today that I intend to come to Ireland in May, and I’m expecting to go not only to all the famous sites, but also to go to Moneygall, where my great-great-great-great-great grandfather hails from. Joe Biden is envious because he wants to go first -- (laughter) -- but my expectation is, is that I’ll just be laying the groundwork for what I’m sure will be an even more wonderful trip by him. But I’m very much looking forward to that."

Remarks by President Obama at Friends of Ireland Luncheon

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you so much. Everyone, please have a seat.

To Taoiseach Kenny; to his lovely wife, who has made a wonderful luncheon companion; to the Vice President who is here; to our host, Speaker Boehner, for gathering us together; Ambassador Collins and Mrs. Collins; distinguished members of the House and Senate; distinguished guests from Irish, Northern Irish, and British governments:

It is wonderful to be here and a great privilege. It’s my privilege to join all of you today for this wonderful St. Patrick’s Day celebration –- a day when red, white, and blue has a strong hint of green.

Taoiseach Kenny, welcome. We thank you for joining us. Your presence at this lunch virtually guarantees that any partisan clashes will be limited to who is more Irish than whom. (Laughter.)

Now, speaking of ancestry, there has been some controversy about my own background. (Laughter.) Two years into my presidency, some are still bent on peddling rumors about my origins. So today I want to put all those rumors to rest. It is true my great-great-great-grandfather really was from Ireland. (Applause.) It’s true. Moneygall, to be precise. I can’t believe I have to keep pointing this out. (Laughter.)

As John mentioned, this tradition began with Tip O’Neill and President Reagan -– two men of Irish stock, quick wit, and no small amount of fighting spirit. Tip’s and Gip’s differences were real; their beliefs and their battles were sincere. But so, too, were the bonds of affection and respect for one another. In fact, on the Speaker’s 70th birthday, President Reagan threw him a small party at the White House, where he offered up a toast. “Tip,” he said, “If I had a ticket to heaven and you didn’t have one, I would give mine away and go to hell with you.” (Laughter.) The two later left the room arm in arm.

Before six o’clock, it was politics. After six o’clock, they could be friends. They extended that safe zone to St. Patrick’s Day, setting aside this lunch each year so that folks in both parties could enjoy the good cheer and the good company. Our dear friend, Ted Kennedy, and others persuaded Taoiseach to join them. And the only hint of fighting in the air was the contest to out-do one another’s stories.

President Reagan insisted that this lunch not be a place for policy battles –- but rather for good cheer and fellowship that so often is missing in Washington. “Our friendship,” President Reagan said of Tip O’Neill, “is testimony to the political system that we’re part of and the country that we live in -– a country which permits two not-so-shy and not-so-retiring Irishmen to have it out on the issues, rather than on each other or their countrymen.” I think that’s a sentiment that we should all strive to keep in mind -– whether Irish or not.

Over the past week we’ve witnessed one of our finest allies, Japan, endure a terrible tragedy. As Americans, our first instinct naturally has been to help in any way that we can. And we will help the Japanese people as they recover and rebuild. But what these events should also remind us is that, in the scheme of things, our differences are small. In the face of all that we have in common, our differences are insignificant. None of us are alone in this world. We need one another -- especially in times of turmoil and trial.

And as servants of the people who sent us here, we can all do better to live up to the example that Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan and others often set -– to put the differences of the day aside; to seek common ground; to forge progress for the sake of this country that we love. Even before six o’clock.

So, in the months and years ahead, I hope we can summon some of the spirit of this day and work together with renewed commitment to bring about better days for all of our people. But today is a day for tens of millions of Americans of Irish descent to celebrate the tremendous influence that one small island with a big-hearted people has had on our country.

Prime Minister Kenny, I thank you and your lovely wife for coming today. We are proud to call Ireland a friend on this St. Patrick’s Day, and on all the days of the calendar -– and we thank the Irish people for all that they’ve done to enrich the United States of America.

So let me grab a glass. To our guest, the Taoiseach of Ireland. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of you. And may the friendship between our two countries grow ever greener. Cheers. (Applause.)


President Obama's Remarks on St. Patrick's Day at the White House, March 17, 2011

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release / March 17, 2011


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hello, everybody. It is my great pleasure on St. Patrick’s Day to welcome the new Taoiseach, Prime Minister Kenny. We are thrilled to have him here. And we want to congratulate him on his historic victory.

We obviously have the strongest possible relationship with Ireland. The warmth, the affection, the familial and person-to-person contacts between our two countries extend far beyond any dry policy issues. There is just an incredible bond between our two countries. And that’s one that we want to reaffirm here today.

We have had an excellent conversation about how Ireland is going to be bouncing back from the severe economic challenges that it’s experienced over the last several years. The Taoiseach shared with me his plans and his efforts to make sure that people are put back to work in Ireland, that the financial system is stabilized. And he exudes great confidence, and I’m sure that we will be cooperating very closely with him and providing any assistance that we can on the economic front.

In addition, Ireland obviously plays an important role in the world. We want to thank him for the operations at Shannon that are so vital for us moving our troops into Afghanistan. It is a testimony to Ireland’s friendship to us. In addition, Ireland actually has trainers in Afghanistan that have provided us great assistance. And I expressed my appreciation for those sacrifices. We’ve worked together on issues like international food security, and we will continue to work on those issues as well.

We remarked on the fact that the situation in Northern Ireland has proven to be stable, and we are going to continue to pursue all the progress that’s been made there.

So, overall, the state of the relationship between our two countries is extraordinarily strong. This is a wonderful tradition each St. Patrick’s Day for me to be able to once again reaffirm the great warmth and affection that we have towards the people of Ireland.

And finally, I wanted to say today that I intend to come to Ireland in May, and I’m expecting to go not only to all the famous sites, but also to go to Moneygall, where my great-great-great-great-great grandfather hails from. Joe Biden is envious because he wants to go first -- (laughter) -- but my expectation is, is that I’ll just be laying the groundwork for what I’m sure will be an even more wonderful trip by him.

But I’m very much looking forward to that. And thank you so much for being here today. Thank

The White House has a full Irish Agenda on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2011

President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden have a busy schedule this St. Patrick's Day in Washington, DC. Here is a schedule of Irish activities released by the White House Press Office for Thursday, March 17, 2011.

10:30 am

The President and Vice President meet with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny

Oval Office

11:05 am

The President and Irish Prime Minister Kenny will deliver statements to the press; the Vice President also attends

Oval Office

12:00 pm

The President, Vice President and Irish Prime Minister Kenny attend a St. Patrick’s Day lunch

United States Capitol

12:30 pm

Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney

James S. Brady Briefing Room

7:05 pm

The President and First Lady host a St. Patrick’s Day reception; the Vice President attends

East Room

Friday, March 11, 2011

President Barack Obama Congratulates Ireland's New Prime Minister Enda Kenny

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Readout of the President's Call with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny

The President spoke this morning with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny to congratulate him on assuming his office and to wish him good luck as the new Taoiseach. The President assured the Prime Minister of the United States’ strong support for Ireland. The two leaders expressed their commitment to strengthening the enduring bond between Ireland and United States and to advancing the interests of their two peoples through close cooperation. Prime Minister Kenny accepted the President’s invitation to the White House on Saint Patrick’s Day. The two leaders look forward to continuing their discussion on events in Libya and other international and domestic issues during an Oval Office meeting planned for that day.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

President Barack Obama Proclaims March as Irish American Heritage Month, 2011




Our diverse Nation has been shaped by the sacrifices and successes of those who crossed both land and sea in pursuit of a common dream. For millions of Americans, this journey began in Ireland. In the wake of the Great Hunger, many sons and daughters of Erin came to our shores seeking a brighter day, with only courage and the enduring values of faith and family to sustain them. Alongside many others who sought a better life in a new Nation, these intrepid immigrants built strong communities and helped forge our country's future. During Irish-American Heritage Month, we honor the contributions Irish Americans have made, and celebrate the nearly 40 million among us who proudly trace their roots back to Ireland.

From the earliest days of our Republic, the Irish have overcome discrimination and carved out a place for themselves in the American story. Through hard work, perseverance, and patriotism, women and men of Irish descent have given their brawn, brains, and blood to make and remake this Nation -- pulling it westward, pushing it skyward, and moving it forward. Half a century ago, John F. Kennedy became our first Irish-American Catholic President and summoned an expectant citizenry to greatness. This year, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's inauguration, we recognize our 35th President and the countless other Irish Americans whose leadership and service have steered the course of our Nation.

Seldom in this world has a country so small had so large an impact on another. Today, the rich culture of Ireland touches all aspects of American society, and the friendship that binds Ireland and the United States is marked by a shared past and a common future. As communities across our country celebrate Irish-American Heritage Month and St. Patrick's Day, our Nation pays tribute to the proud lineage passed down to so many Americans from the Emerald Isle.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 2011 as Irish-American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month by celebrating the contributions of Irish Americans to our Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.