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Taoiseach thanks VP Kamala Harris for LGBT advocacy during St. Patrick's Day breakfast in DC

The meeting and ceremony will round out several days of diplomacy and celebrations in the US and beyond for St Patrick’s week.

LAST UPDATE | Mar 17th 2023, 1:57 PM

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR  has begun a busy day of events in Washington DC, attending a breakfast with his partner at the residence of US Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Varadkar and Matt Barrett were greeted at the steps of the Naval Observatory, which is the official residence of the Vice President.  

After three Covid-affected years, Harris said she was happy to resume the tradition of the St Patrick’s Day breakfast.

During remarks to the room, Varadkar thanked Harris for her work on LGBT rights, saying that he does not believe “I would be here today” were it not for advances in the US. 

“Thank you very much Madam Vice President for inviting Matt and me to be here in your beautiful home and for continuing that very special tradition, which was initiated by President Biden when he was resident here,” the Taoiseach said.

“As doctors and as proud members of the LGBT community, allow us to say how inspired we’ve by your personal efficacy for marriage equality.

From from Stonewall to Sacramento to San Francisco, America has led the way when it comes to LGBT equality. I don’t think it would be here today were it not for what America did and I know you’ve been such a strong ally for our community in that regard. Thank you for that. 

Varadkar and Barrett previously attended the same breakfast in 2019 hosted by then US vice president Mike Pence. The meeting made international headlines due to Pence’s past advocacy for gay conversion therapy. 

Varadkar praised Ireland and America’s “ancient and enduring expression of friendship, honoured across cultures”.

He also said that Ireland was introducing Sláintecare which would abolish inpatient charges and phase out private care in public hospitals.

Later this afternoon, Varadkar will be hosted by US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office in the White House. 

It is expected the two leaders will discuss issues relating to Northern Ireland, the Windsor Framework, the war in Ukraine and economic issues between Ireland and the US.

The Taoiseach said today that he will also be raising concerns about the president’s Inflation Reduction Act and its impacts.

An Taoiseach will then travel to the Capitol to hold a bilateral meeting with the Speaker of the House in the Capitol. 

This evening, Varadkar will return to the White House for the traditional St Patrick’s Day shamrock ceremony.

Singer-songwriter and Mullingar man Niall Horan will also perform at the White House today before there’s a Cultural Showcase in the city’s Kennedy Center.  

This event will round out several days of diplomacy and celebrations in the US and beyond for St Patrick’s week.

u-s-president-donald-trump-l-receives-the-shamrock-bowl-from-prime-minister-of-ireland-leo-varadkar-during-a-presentation-event-at-the-white-house-in-washington-on-march-14-2019-photo-by-yuri-gri The last shamrock ceremony, in 2019. Alamy Alamy

The traditional shamrock ceremony was last due to take place in 2020 between Varadkar and Donald Trump, but was cancelled amid the growing pandemic crisis, although the two did meet in person.

A viral meeting with no shamrock ceremony took place in 2021, and last year Micheál Martin caught Covid shortly beforehand, leading to another virtual event.

u-s-president-joe-biden-speaks-while-hosting-a-virtual-st-patricks-day-meeting-with-irelands-prime-minister-micheal-martin-after-irish-taoiseach-martin-tested-positive-for-coronavirus-disease-cov The virtual meting between Biden and Martin in 2022. Alamy Alamy

Today’s meeting will also take place in the shadow of comments made by the Taoiseach at an event in Washington yesterday.

Varadkar has apologised after making an apparent reference to the 1995 Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The Taoiseach reportedly said his own spell as an intern in Washington was a time when some parents would have had “cause for concern” about what would happen to interns there.

Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan, Rónán Duffy and Christina Finn in Washington DC

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