Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with President Donald Trump on his first official state visit to the U.S. this week, presenting Trump with a bowl of Irish shamrocks, continuing a tradition that dates back to the 1950s.
At the annual St. Patrick’s Day reception at the White House this week, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presented President Donald Trump with a bowl of Irish shamrocks as the two discussed the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, the undocumented Irish in the U.S., and the enduring relationship between Ireland and the United States. Trump also expressed his intention to visit Ireland in the future, calling the Irish “truly wonderful people.”
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) March 15, 2018
“I will, I love it. I have property there that I never get to visit,” he said. “I look forward to being there. It’s a great country. I’d go to the Border.”
Commenting further on the border that is the subject of contentious Brexit negotiations, Trump said, “That’s an interesting border also. We have two interesting borders. One happens to be where you [Varadkar] are, right? It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.”
Varadkar described the occasion as a “good meeting,” joking that the last time he was in the White House was as a congressional aid in 2002, though was not allowed into the Oval Office.
“But now we do,” Trump replied. “You’ve made great progress.”
Speaking after the meeting, Varadkar expressed optimism about the topics the two heads of state discussed.
“There was support and a good degree of enthusiasm from the administration to work on a solution for the thousands of undocumented Irish that are here but are hardworking, tax paying people who are very loyal to America,” he said. “We also had an opportunity to talk about the Border. The President was very aware of the issues that affect Northern Ireland, and if there is a return to the hard border, and the president Is think is very much on our side in terms of looking for a solution.”
“These are truly wonderful people, we love them” – US President Donald Trump welcomes Irish PM Leo Varadkar to the White House ahead of Saint Patrick’s Day https://t.co/0kZAPeIhe9 pic.twitter.com/1Gw0qzAV3g
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) March 15, 2018
The tradition of the shamrock bowl dates back to 1952 when Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S. sent President Harry S. Truman a box of shamrocks in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Four years later, President Dwight Eisenhower hosted the Irish taoiseach for the first time on St. Patrick’s Day, and by the 1990s, the annual meeting between the taoiseach and presidents had become tradition. The shamrocks are shipped in from Ireland each year.
“I know that the Irish people who have made their lives here, including those who are undocumented and living in the shadows, love this country dearly,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said to President Trump at Shamrock Bowl presentation ceremony. pic.twitter.com/vEHKJhk0CY
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 15, 2018
Following the White House meeting, Varadkar attended the Friends of Ireland luncheon hosted by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, himself an Irish American.
At Friendsof Ireland luncheon at the Capitol, @SpeakerRyan tells the Irish Taoiseach that Guinness tastes better in Ireland, “But this is probably not the year to bring up trade issues.” Awkward laughter filled the room. pic.twitter.com/GygnG2RWKT
— Ed O’Keefe (@edatpost) March 15, 2018
Varadkar also met with New York Senator Chuck Schumer during his visit to Washington, D.C. Schumer recently announced that a U.S. Navy destroyer would be named after Marine Corporal Patrick “Bob” Gallagher, a native of County Mayo who died in the Vietnam War just days before he was due to return to the U.S. Gallagher, who served in the U.S. Marines despite not being a U.S. citizen, was awarded the Navy Cross for bravery during the war. Schumer’s announcement comes after a five-year campaign by Gallagher’s family that began in Texas.
“The green and red of Mayo, which was never far from his heart, was replaced by the red, white and blue of Old Glory when Patrick Gallagher became a U.S. Marine for his adopted nation,” Schumer said at an event earlier this week at the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York City in which he presented a scale model of the ship to Gallagher’s family. ♦