Joe Biden was presented with a bowl of shamrocks from Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a tradition that began in 1952. The US President has cited his Irish roots as a source of intense pride and his Irish Catholic upbringing forms much of his political backstory.
“It’s good to have you back in the Oval Office, especially on St Patrick’s Day,” Biden said as he and Varadkar discussed their nations’ continued support of Ukraine and how to better deepen their economic ties. “We have a lot to talk about.”
Biden, who often speaks of his Irish heritage and is fond of quoting Irish poets, declared March Irish-American heritage month. The White House even dyed the South Lawn fountain green for the occasion.
“We really want to profoundly thank you and America for your leadership in relation to Ukraine,” Varadkar said. “We’re going to roll out the red carpet” for Biden’s visit to Ireland, he said.
The Good Friday agreement came under increasing stress following the UK’s exit from the European Union, but a recent accord between the UK and the EU addresses some of the issues that arose around commerce and goods that cross the Irish Sea from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The White House said the agreement, known as the Windsor Framework, is an important step in maintaining the peace accord and Biden on Friday spoke of support for the framework, though Northern Ireland’s political leaders have called for changes.
“From Stonewall to Sacramento to San Francisco. America has led the way when it comes to LGBT equality,” he said. “I don’t think I would be here today were it not for what America did.”
Varadkar then was meeting with the president in the Oval Office before both were to head to the Capitol for a lunch with congressional leaders.
Biden was to host a reception for Varadkar later Friday at the White House, which was itself designed and built by an Irish-born man, James Hoban. He oversaw the initial construction, rebuilding after it was burned down and adding renovations until his death in 1831.
According to the Census Bureau, roughly 31.5 million U.S. residents claim Irish heritage, second only to German.
“Ireland and the United States are forever bound together by our people and our passion. Everything between us runs deep,” Biden said in his proclamation.
The St Patrick’s Day tradition, like the turkey pardon and Easter egg roll, has become an annual White House affair.
“That’s what’s wonderful about this history of the White House,” said Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association. “It’s laden with rich traditions that are cultural, not just from our own country.”
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