By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA in Washington
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has begun his visit to Washington DC as part of the St Patrick’s Day festivities, with events lined up to focus on the Irish diaspora and the Good Friday Agreement.
The three-day visit is part of a long-standing tradition, as members of the Irish Government bolster international relations and promote Ireland abroad to coincide with March 17th.
“A lot of the focus will be on recognising the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and honouring the role that the United States played in particular in making the Good Friday Agreement happen,” the Taoiseach told Irish media in Washington.
He said the US had been “a force for good when it comes to the peace process” and on building a shared island.
Mr Varadkar said that Ireland’s relationship with the US was “very much a two-way street”, saying that Ireland is also the ninth-biggest investor in the US.
“That’s not bad for a country of only five million people, so very much a two-way relationship, and one we want to build in the years ahead.”
On St Patrick’s Day the Taoiseach will present US president Joe Biden with a bowl of shamrocks in a high-profile ceremony and speak to him about his own visit to Ireland next month to coincide with the Good Friday Agreement anniversary.
“He’s received invitations from both the British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach, and it’s a long-standing invitation, so I look forward to talking to him about his plans to travel to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“I’m really looking forward to that visit.
“In many ways President Biden is coming home. He speaks of himself as being an Irish person, an Irish-American, and we’re going to roll out the red carpet and we’re going to be making sure he feels very welcome.
“And we’ll particularly want to thank him, and thank America, for the pivotal role they’ve played both in helping to build our economy and also helping to build the peace in Ireland.”
He said he would thank Mr Biden for his leadership following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and would meet other key figures in the US administration as part of the visit.
“Something that Europe really values is American leadership when it comes to defending democracy and freedom around the world,” Mr Varadkar said.
“I haven’t met vice president (Kamala Harris) before or the speaker (of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy), so keen to meet them for the first time and begin to develop a relationship because it’s really important that we have relationships at all levels of the US administration, in Congress in the White House, in the different government departments, and also from both major parties.”