To the strains of a song called “O’America,” Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and President Obama were hosted on the Hill today for the annual Friends of Ireland lunch at the Capitol.
“Judging by the weather, the luck of the Irish is with us. And judging by the crowd, the noise of the Irish is with us as well,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
“Yes, I’d say this is the loudest gathering of Irishmen in Washington since the last time Joe Biden dined alone. It’s like I’m always telling the president: you only tease the ones you love,” he added.
Biden was in Rome today for the installation Mass of Pope Francis, but will go to New York on Thursday to deliver his signature remarks to the 2013 Irish America Hall of Fame Luncheon.
“In any case, this is a day for a hundred thousand welcomes: welcoming you to our Capitol, welcoming your continued friendship, and welcoming all the contributions the Irish have made in America. Out of our 44 presidents, at least 22 can trace their roots to Ireland. Well, 23 if you count Daniel Day Lewis,” Boehner quipped.
The heart of the Irish, the speaker said, is “what led an American newspaper to describe the ‘several sorts of power working at the fabric of this Republic: waterpower, steam power, horsepower, and Irish power.’ It’s why the great general, Douglas MacArthur, said, ‘By God, it takes the Irish when you want a hard thing done.’ And it’s how two fierce political opponents, Reagan and O’Neill, teamed up to become the first two friends in this tradition.”
Obama, Boehner, Kenny, and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) all sported green ties at the private affair.
Obama and the taoiseach sat down for a bilateral meeting before the lunch.
“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,” Obama said. “…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.”
“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,” Kenny quipped. “The president of the United States, an Irishman, and the president of Europe, an Irishman, meeting in the Oval Office.”