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Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Kenny of Ireland Before a Bilateral Meeting

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Location: Washington, DC

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is a great pleasure to welcome back Taoiseach Kenny to the Oval Office, to the White House and his entire delegation. Obviously, we cherish this opportunity once a year to reaffirm the incredible bond between the United States and Ireland. This year, it also gives us an excuse to stretch out St. Patrick's Day for a couple of extra days, which is always good.

This is now my fifth time to welcome the Taoiseach to the Oval Office. I've had the occasion to visit Ireland as well -- one of the truly wonderful trips that I've taken as President of the United States. And the reason that these meetings go so well is because of the incredible bond and history between our two countries.

Obviously, the contributions of Irish Americans to the United States is legendary. But what is also true is that we have an incredibly strong partnership on economic issues, on security issues. The Taoiseach has shown great leadership during difficult times in Ireland. And we're seeing progress in the Irish economy. That's good for the U.S. economy because we have a lot of trade, a lot of investment in Ireland.

There was a story this morning about a deal between Ryanair and Boeing in which we'll be selling a whole lot of airplanes to Ireland. And it's an example of how the progress that's made in Ireland benefits jobs and businesses here in the United States. Obviously, the Taoiseach is very interested, as well as in continuing to attract direct investment from the United States to Ireland. So this will be a major topic of discussion.

Ireland also punches above its weight internationally when it comes to humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping. Irish troops are in many very difficult places in the world and provide the kinds of stabilization and humanitarian efforts that make all the difference and save lives.

And so I am very much looking forward to having a good conversation. I'm sure we will also touch on the issue of Northern Ireland in which we have continued to see progress coming out of the Good Friday agreements, but we also have to recognize that there's a lot more work to be done before there's true unity of effort in that country. And I know that both in discussions with the Taoiseach as well as in talking to the ministers who are here from Northern Ireland, we'll have an opportunity to find out how the United States can be helpful in that overall effort as well.

So, again, Taoiseach, I want to welcome you. Thank you for giving me an excuse to break out my green tie. (Laughter.) And I'm sure that we'll have a wonderful lunch up on Capitol Hill and once again be able to reaffirm the incredible friendship between our peoples.

PRIME MINISTER KENNY: Thank you, Mr. President. Could I to say that it's a particular privilege to be able to come here to the White House to visit President Obama to continue this wonderful tradition that the American government over the years has shown to Ireland because of the particular and unique relationship between our countries covering many centuries.

I come here both as Taoiseach, but also as the presidency of the European Union. I suppose I should say this because I'll never get the chance again, it's great to be on presidential terms here. (Laughter.) The President of the United States, an Irishman, and the President of Europe, an Irishman, meeting in the Oval Office. (Laughter.)

But I would like to say seriously, it's an opportunity for me to brief the President on the progress being made in challenging times for the Irish government, following a very clear and strategic plan. It's also an opportunity to brief the President on issues of the European Union and the progress being made by the European Council, with particular reference to the EU-U.S. trade -- participation and free trade, to which the President referred in his State of the Union address. I'd like to follow that through with him. Also, to brief the President on opportunities in respect of Northern Ireland, immigration -- undocumented Irish -- and, of course, the general perspectives both for the world economy. And as the President is moving to the Middle East this evening, I can give him an update on the recent meeting and discussion that the European Council held there.

Besides, it's a real opportunity to celebrate St. Patrick's Week. I have a second tie for the President, if he so wishes. And, of course, there is a standing open invitation to President Obama to come back to Ireland whenever is convenient and appropriate and when he so wishes. And maybe the next time, when our economies are moving in a more positive direction, we might actually have time to take out the sticks on the golf course. I'm looking forward to that sometime in the future.

So to First Lady Michelle, the children, Malia and Sasha, we wish the President continued success and good fortune in the very onerous responsibilities that he lay up on his shoulders as the leader of the free world. And it's a pleasure and a privilege to be in the Oval Office.


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