In Focus - This Month
The President, the Taoiseach, and the Shamrocks
On Tuesday, March 19, President Obama held a bilateral meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny at the White House before the two leaders traveled to the Capitol for a St. Patrick's Day Luncheon.
In their Oval Office meeting -- the fifth since President Obama took office -- the President and Taosiseach reaffirmed the incredible bond between the United States and Ireland.
"We have an incredibly strong partnership on economic issues, on security issues," President Obama said. "The Taoiseach has shown great leadership during difficult times in Ireland. And we’re seeing progress in the Irish economy."
Noting one example of this progress, President Obama mentioned a deal to sell American-made planes to Ireland that will help businesses here in the U.S create jobs.
The Taoiseach, who is currently serving as President of the European Union, took the opportunity to brief President Obama on the strategic plan in place to address challenges facing the Irish government, as well as an update on advancing EU-U.S. trade.
At the Capitol later in the afternoon, the President and Prime Minister reflected on the relationship between our two countries, both past and present. President Obama offered a toast to an "eternal friendship."
To cap off the St. Patrick's Day celebrations, the President and First Lady hosted a reception at the White House in the evening where Taoiseach Kenny presented the traditional bowl of Irish shamrocks .
U.S. - Irish Relationship
The friendship between Ireland and the United States stretch back to the beginnings of both republics, and the ties of kinship, history, and shared values run deep. Irish Americans have played an integral role in making America a place of hope and opportunity. Throughout history, America has welcomed millions of Irish immigrants to its shores. These proud people arrived seeking a better life for themselves, their families, and future generations. Many faced significant obstacles, including discrimination and poverty. Despite these challenges, Irish Americans have risen to success in every sector of our society. During Irish-American Heritage Month, we recognize these proud citizens and their important contributions to America.
Long before the great wave of Irish immigration in the 1840s, people of Irish ancestry were defining and defending America. Charles Thomson, an Irishman by birth, served as Secretary of the Continental Congress and helped design the Great Seal of the United States. Irish-born Commodore John Barry fought for America’s independence and later helped found the United States Navy. 9 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Irish Americans. Irish Americans explored America’s frontiers, built many of our bridges, canals, and railroads, and their proud record of public service helped to fortify democracy.
Irish Americans have also been leaders in public life. In June 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke to the Parliament in Dublin and told the story of the Irish Brigade, a regiment that fought valiantly for the Union and suffered terrible losses during the Civil War. Two decades after President Kennedy's visit, President Ronald Reagan returned to his great-grandfather's hometown in County Tipperary, Ireland, and greeted the crowd in the Irish language. In May 2011, President Obama and the First Lady visited Moneygall in Co. Offaly, where his great-great-great-great-great grandfather hailed from. Falmouth Kearney, an Irish immigrant came to America in 1850. The president’s mother, Ann Dunham, was a descendant of one of Kearney’s daughters.
America is a better Nation because of the efforts of Irish Americans like Henry Ford, who spurred innovation; Bing Crosby, who entertained countless people around the world; and activist Mary Kenney O'Sullivan, who worked for critical and compassionate social reform.
The White House was designed by an Irish architect, and he used as his model the grandest building he knew, Leinster House in Ireland. Construction began when the first cornerstone was laid in October of 1792. Although President Washington oversaw the construction of the house, he never lived in it. It was not until 1800, when the White House was nearly completed, that its first residents, President John Adams and his wife, Abigail, moved in.
St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday imported by Irish immigrants, is celebrated across the United States. It is the occasion for city-sponsored festivities and parades in many countries, including Japan, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Great Britain, the United States and Ireland. The largest parades are held in Dublin (Ireland), New York City, Montreal and Boston. The first recorded celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in the American colonies was in Boston in 1737, and the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1756.