Weekly Comment:
Irish Taoiseach Meets with Trump in Oval Office

Leo Varadkar presented Donald and Melania Trump with a ceremonial bowl of shamrocks at the White House. (Photo Courtesy Ireland Department of Foreign Affairs)

By Adam Farley, Deputy Editor
March 15, 2018

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with President Donald Trump on his first official state visit to the U.S. this week, presenting Trump with a bowl of Irish shamrocks, continuing a tradition that dates back to the 1950s.

At the annual St. Patrick’s Day reception at the White House this week, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presented President Donald Trump with a bowl of Irish shamrocks as the two discussed the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, the undocumented Irish in the U.S., and the enduring relationship between Ireland and the United States. Trump also expressed his intention to visit Ireland in the future, calling the Irish “truly wonderful people.”

“I will, I love it. I have property there that I never get to visit,” he said. “I look forward to being there. It’s a great country. I’d go to the Border.”

Commenting further on the border that is the subject of contentious Brexit negotiations, Trump said, “That’s an interesting border also. We have two interesting borders. One happens to be where you [Varadkar] are, right? It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.”

Varadkar described the occasion as a “good meeting,” joking that the last time he was in the White House was as a congressional aid in 2002, though was not allowed into the Oval Office.

“But now we do,” Trump replied. “You’ve made great progress.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on March 15. (Photo Courtesy Ireland Department of Foreign Affairs)

Speaking after the meeting, Varadkar expressed optimism about the topics the two heads of state discussed.

“There was support and a good degree of enthusiasm from the administration to work on a solution for the thousands of undocumented Irish that are here but are hardworking, tax paying people who are very loyal to America,” he said. “We also had an opportunity to talk about the Border. The President was very aware of the issues that affect Northern Ireland, and if there is a return to the hard border, and the president Is think is very much on our side in terms of looking for a solution.”

The tradition of the shamrock bowl dates back to 1952 when Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S. sent President Harry S. Truman a box of shamrocks in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Four years later, President Dwight Eisenhower hosted the Irish taoiseach for the first time on St. Patrick’s Day, and by the 1990s, the annual meeting between the taoiseach and presidents had become tradition. The shamrocks are shipped in from Ireland each year.

Following the White House meeting, Varadkar attended the Friends of Ireland luncheon hosted by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, himself an Irish American.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on March 15, ahead of the Friends of Ireland luncheon in Washington, D.C. (Photo Courtesy Ireland Department of Foreign Affairs)

Varadkar also met with New York Senator Chuck Schumer during his visit to Washington, D.C. Schumer recently announced that a U.S. Navy destroyer would be named after Marine Corporal Patrick “Bob” Gallagher, a native of County Mayo who died in the Vietnam War just days before he was due to return to the U.S. Gallagher, who served in the U.S. Marines despite not being a U.S. citizen, was awarded the Navy Cross for bravery during the war. Schumer’s announcement comes after a five-year campaign by Gallagher’s family that began in Texas.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with New York Senator Chuck Schumer in Washington, D.C. on March 15. (Photo Courtesy Ireland Department of Foreign Affairs)

“The green and red of Mayo, which was never far from his heart, was replaced by the red, white and blue of Old Glory when Patrick Gallagher became a U.S. Marine for his adopted nation,” Schumer said at an event earlier this week at the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York City in which he presented a scale model of the ship to Gallagher’s family. ♦

5 Responses to “Weekly Comment:
Irish Taoiseach Meets with Trump in Oval Office”

  1. John Begley says:

    As an Irish american I am appalled that so many Irish Americans find that slimeball trump appealing. I am celebrating the triump of Connor Lamb, a truely great Irish american in the Pennsylvania election.

  2. Please, NO, do not let this critent come to Ireland. Surely he’ll ruin it like he’s ruining America.

  3. Thank you, Mr. Farley, and Irish America, for continuing to send me all this wonderful culture – especially rich to me in my homebound state (Not that I am bound home for Ireland but that I’m stuck in a wheelchair in Oakland – with a nice green view.)
    Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
    Too bad neither president comes off well in the videos. The Irishman tongue-tied, the American condescending and both of them speaking in clichés. President Trump finds everyone “wonderful people.” The Irishman comes a-begging with no mention of Irish support for the U.S. but only for law-breakers.
    The tradition of fighting Irishmen dying for other countries is a notable one and perhaps if the laws had not been changed to be prejudicial against Europeans he could have come in here legally. Should there be a movie about young Gallagher’s life?
    The First Lady wears green, thank you. Too bad she does not show signs of life but stands there like a manikin. It would be nice if she were more Eleanor Roosevelt-like, but that is true of all the first ladies. They show no more life than vice-presidents do.
    Thanks, again, anyway. Good old President Eisenhower, leader of the forces that protected us from Hitler, initiated the shamrock-giving as a tradition. We should come to the White House with gratitude, not with, “What more can you do for us?”
    Mr. Garland
    Dubliner and San Franciscoite

  4. Sean Curtain says:

    Those of us who immigrated from any part of the whole Irish nation and honorably served in the U.S. military, especially the Marine Corps, are extremely that Mayo man Corporal Gallagher will have a U.S. military ship named in his honor.

  5. Sean Curtain says:

    I am one of the 35 Million U.S. citizens who has Irish heritage, having been born in England, raised in Ireland and acquiring U.S. citizenship after 4 years of honorable service in the Marine Corps. But my Irish heritage is NOT restricted to the part of Ireland formerly known as the Free State; it applies to an náisiún uile na hÉireann agus gach roinn de. (The whole Irish nation and ALL its parts).

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