On March 15, 2016, acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny is in Washington, D.C. for the traditional festivities to mark Saint Patrick’s Day.
Kenny holds a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama. This is President Obama’s last Saint Patrick’s Day in the White House and, pending government formation negotiations, it may also be Kenny’s last as Taoiseach. Obama criticises the vicious nature of the current U.S. political cycle and pledges to continue to push for immigration reform while he is still in office. He is speaking as he attends several engagements with Kenny to mark Saint Patrick’s Day.
Earlier in the day at a breakfast reception at Number One Observatory Circle, the official residence of the vice president of the United States, Kenny tells Vice President Joe Biden that Ireland will be able to put together a stable government during the next “short period ahead.” The recent General Election is mentioned several times during speeches from both men. Biden says that he is surprised at the outcome saying “he did a hell of a job, is still the most popular guy, and he lost.” Biden says Kenny had assured him that it was “going to work out.”
The traditional Speaker’s Lunch to mark Saint Patrick’s Day is hosted for the first time by Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
In the evening, Kenny presents the traditional bowl of shamrock to Obama at a reception at the White House. The bowl is mouth-blown and hand-cut at the House of Waterford Crystal factory in Ireland. The piece is designed by Tom Cooke and inspired by the General Post Office (GPO) in Dublin. It features the five themes of the Irish 2016 Centenary Programme – Remembering, Reconciling, Presenting, Imagining and Celebrating – which are inscribed on the piece.
Kenny also presents Obama with a pair of cufflinks modeled on the buttons of the coat Michael Collins was wearing when he was killed, and a limited-edition, fine-press collection of poetry and art, to celebrate the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, published by Stoney Road Press, in association with An Post and Poetry Ireland. First Lady Michelle Obama receives a ring designed by Paul Kelly, inspired by the Ring of Kerry, and a hamper of Irish food items. Daughters Malia and Sasha Obama are given two Newbridge Silverware compact mirrors.
Speaking to reporters after visiting the Oval Office, Kenny says Fine Gael is talking to like-minded parties and individuals on government formation and is working on drawing-up a set of priorities. “We’re actually determining our set of priorities that will be important in the discussions that Fine Gael will have in putting together a government. Some of that comes from our own programme, some of it comes from the parties and the alliances that we’ve been talking to. And some of it clearly comes from the concerns raised by people during the course of the election, like housing and homelessness, health issues and so on.”
Kenny adds, “We expect to have that finalised next week and that gives us really the basis for negotiations and for discussions about putting a government together.”
The following day, Kenny returns to Ireland for a short time before traveling to Brussels for a European Council meeting on Saint Patrick’s Day.
(From: “Kenny meets Obama and Biden in Washington,” RTÉ News, http://www.rte.ie, March 15, 2016)