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Taoiseach cuts St Patrick's Day trip short to deal with evolving coronavirus situation and will not travel to New York

Leo Varadkar will travel to Washington DC as planned to meet President Trump.

Image: PA

Updated Mar 9th 2020, 12:49 PM

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has cut short his St Patrick’s Day trip to the US and will now not be visiting New York.

Varadkar was due to arrive in New York tomorrow for an event at the United Nations.

The Taoiseach will now commence his US St Patrick’s Day trip in Washington DC on Wednesday.

The itinerary change is to allow him to stay in Ireland on Tuesday to deal with the evolving coronavirus situation, it is understood.

A government spokesperson said Varadkar was very much looking forward to attending a series of engagements in Washington on Wednesday evening and Thursday, including meeting with US President Donald Trump.

A state of emergency has been declared in New York due to this coronavirus. Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an interview yesterday that by doing so it allowed him to access federal funding quicker and without the red tape. A total of 105 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the State of New York.

It is understood the situation in New York is not the reason for the Taoiseach cutting short the trip.

The stop in New York, which will not go ahead, was to promote Ireland in gaining a seat on the UN Security Council in June. Varadkar was due to meet the Irish ambassador as well as diplomats.

In previous years, the government has put a lot of work into securing the seat, even getting U2′s Bono to speak in the country’s favour

As is traditional, Varadkar will meet with Trump, with their meeting due to be held in the White House Oval Office on Thursday. 

On that day, the Taoiseach will first be hosted for breakfast by Vice President Mike Pence.

While controversy surrounded this meeting in previous years, the Taoiseach was praised last year for speaking about being judged by his political actions and not his sexual orientation during his speech at Pence’s house. 

The US vice president has been criticised for his views and his legislative record on LGBT rights.

Varadkar’s partner Matt Barrett was also a guest at the breakfast meeting last year, something which caught the attention of the media in the US, including Ellen Degeneres

After the breakfast this year, Varadkar will attend the annual Speaker’s Lunch on Capitol Hill and meet with senior members of Congress.

There was some controversy yesterday surrounding this event when it emerged the president will not be attending the luncheon due to his fraught relationship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

leo-varadkar-visit-to-us-day-2 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents US President Donald Trump with a bowl of Shamrock. Source: Brian Lawless

The bowl of shamrock 

That evening, the Taoiseach will join Trump and his wife Melania, for the traditional Shamrock Ceremony at the White House, in advance of attending the Ambassador’s St Patrick’s Day Reception.

In his meetings, he will also emphasise the strength of Irish-US relations and will recall the important role of the US in supporting peace and the Good Friday Agreement, as well as highlighting that Stormont is now back up and running after three years. 

It is also expected that the Taoiseach will press the case for resolving the situation facing the undocumented Irish in America.

While in Washington DC, Varadkar will also attend an Irish Embassy event, before attending the Irish Funds Gala, a black-tie dinner which is traditionally attended by every serving Taoiseach.

This year’s theme for the gala is “Irish America’s Commitment to Peace and Reconciliation”.

The House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi will also receive the Distinguished Leadership Award on the night. 

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president-donald-trump-participate-in-the-shamrock-bowl-presentation-by-the-prime-minister-of-ireland President Donald Trump participate in the Shamrock Bowl Presentation. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

This year’s trip to the States to mark St Patrick’s Day is a shortened trip compared to other years.

A curtailed trip also took place in 2016 when Enda Kenny was in a similar position during government formation talks. He travelled to the US for just one day

In recent years about 30 ministerial trips abroad for St. Patrick’s Day have taken place each year, but this time it was decided to cut the number of politicians travelling

As well as the Taoiseach, just eight ministers will travel abroad this year

Tánaiste Simon Coveney also told ministers this year that there are strict rules around the costs associated with the visits, including flights and hotels.

Delegations should be kept to a minimum, he said and first-class flights should not be used.

Hotel suites and hired limousines are also banned this year. 

TheJournal.ie’s Political Correspondent Christina Finn will be bringing you all the latest updates from Leo Varadkar’s visit to Washington DC this week, including his meeting with US President Donald Trump on Thursday.

Stay up-to-date by following @christinafinn8@TJ_Politics  and TheJournal.ie’s Facebook page

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