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Leo Varadkar has met with Donald Trump in the Oval Office (they didn't shake hands)

Varadkar is expected to return to Ireland later today.

Varadkar and Trump in the Oval Office
Varadkar and Trump in the Oval Office
Image: Christina Finn

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office this afternoon – the last stop in his two-day tour to the United States. 

Earlier this morning Varadkar attended breakfast at Vice President Mike Pence’s house before travelling to the White House. 

The taoiseach is expected to return to Ireland today, one day earlier than originally envisaged as a result of the rising coronavirus cases in Ireland.

Trump said that he and Varadkar did not shake hands when the met, following health advice relating to the coronavirus outbreak, but instead said they each made a bowing gesture. 

“We didn’t shake hands today and we looked at each other and said ‘what are we gonna do?’, you know I just got back from India and I didn’t shake any hands there… I was never a big handshaker, as you probably heard, but once you become a politician, shaking hands is very normal,” Trump said. 

The pair will go into a meeting shortly in which issues including the coronavirus outbreak across the world will be discussed. 

Last night, Trump announced that all travel into the US from Europe will be suspended for 30 days – travel from Ireland and the UK, however, will not be affected. 

“The big concern in Ireland and Europe at the moment is Covid-19 and we’ve acted, just as you’ve acted, decisively in the last couple of days. We have restrictions on travel to Italy for a few days already,” Varadkar told the US president. 

While speaking of his experience going through US customs control in Dublin Airport, Trump praised the “UK” for its “strong borders”. 

“One of the reasons the UK basically has got the border, its got very strong borders, and they are doing a very good job and they don’t have very much infection at this point and hopefully they’ll keep it that way,” he said. 

Varadkar also alluded to the announcement he made from Washington earlier today in which he declared that all creches, schools and universities will close until 29 March. 

In a speech this morning, Varadkar said: “The following measures are being put in place, and they will stay in place until the 29 of March. Schools, colleges, and childcare facilities will close from tomorrow.”

“Where possible teaching will be done online or remotely and cultural institutions will close as well.”

Varadkar last night attended an Irish Funds Gala and paid tribute to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thanking her for drawing a red line that a trade deal between the US and the EU would not happen if the Good Friday Agreement was in jeopardy during Brexit.

He said her standpoint during a testing time in the Brexit negotiations “was timely, invaluable, and made a huge difference”.

During a visit to Ireland and the UK last April, Pelosi said a US-UK trade deal was “not on the cards… don’t even think about it” if there was any threat to the border.

With reporting from Christina Finn

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