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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 1 August, 2014

Obama tells Kenny he has done ‘extraordinary work’

The US President also promised a return visit to Ireland.

WHILE AT THE White House today, Enda Kenny received high praise from the world’s most powerful man.

US President Barack Obama told the Taoiseach that he has done “extraordinary work during a very difficult time”.

During the visit, Obama and Kenny discussed a wide range of issues, including both the US and Ireland’s economies and stubbornly high unemployment rates.

Kenny also took the opportunity to outline to the President how Ireland is trying to stabilise its banking system and control its budget. The Taoiseach revealed that during his Oval Office meeting, he had given Obama a rundown on his Government’s decisions over the past 12 months to stabilise public finances and “put our house in order”.

Trade, investment and commerce between the two countries were also on the agenda for the bilateral meeting.

“We are continuing to identify and describe additional areas where we can strengthen those strong economic bonds. And I expressed to the Taoiseach my confidence in not only his government’s ability to get Ireland moving again, but also we consulted on the broader issue of how Europe can begin to grow again, which obviously has an impact on our economy,” said Obama at a press conference earlier today.

Commenting on Ireland’s record as a peacekeeper and humanitarian, Obama noted that the country “punches above its weight”.

Even in the midst of a relatively austere time, Ireland has continued to step up internationally, and we greatly appreciate that.

International issues, including the crisis in Syria and foreign policy in Iran, were also touched upon.

On the less-serious side, Obama joked that the St Patrick’s Day celebrations were taking place three days later than usual because “we like to prolong the party around here”.

He also thanked Kenny and “his lovely wife” for the “extraordinary hospitality” shown to him and Michelle during their visit last year.

“It was a magical day,” he said. “It was too short, so I provided assurances that we will be returning.”

Kenny noted, however, that Obama had a “little matter to attend to” in America first before he could visit again, referring to November’s presidential election.

Later this evening, that all-important bowl of shamrock will be presented to Obama at a special dinner on Capitol Hill.

Read: the full transcript from the White House briefing today>

In pictures: Taoiseach visits White House as Obama pledges Irish return>

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