Irish flags, poetry and performance by Niall Horan… this trip to the White House was another diplomatic success for Ireland
“Every American president is a little Irish on St. Patrick’s Day…but some are more Irish than others.” Those words, spoken by Leo Varadkar, were met with raucous cheers at the White House and a broad smile from Joe Biden, “unmistakably a son of Ireland.”
The Taoiseach was right. Second Irish Catholic President of the United States, after JFK, there is no doubt that Joe Biden is most openly proud of his Irish heritage. The president’s grandfather told him that “the best drop of blood in you is Irish”, he said, and it certainly seems like he took that to heart.
For traveling Irish journalists, it can be easy to take it all for granted each year – access to the Oval Office, Irish flags, songs, music, poetry, the White House green fountain… a outpouring of affection and warmth towards a small country on the borders of Europe.
But this kind of guaranteed access to the most powerful office in the world is remarkable, and the Irish government and diplomats are well aware of the influence it confers. Mr Varadkar today thanked the president for US support for Brexit – ‘it has really made a difference’, he said.
The proud Irish-American from counties Mayo and Louth has repeatedly spoken of his support for the Windsor cadre, again subtly increasing pressure on the DUP, whose leader Jeffrey Donaldson was present at the shamrock ceremony, to he accepts the deal.
But Biden gave no further details of his upcoming trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland, as many had expected. The dates are still unclear.
But for the Irish, it was another diplomatic success. We saw the US president throw his arm around Mullingar’s idol Niall Horan, praising the Irish rugby team and hoping for their Grand Slam victory over England, and speaking in the most sentimental way about the aul sod.
Leo Varadkar will return home assured once again that in this particular White House, Irish interests are very well protected.