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Trump on the Irish: 'They’re smart. They’re sharp. They’re great. And they’re brutal enemies!'

Varadkar touched on the economy and Irish immigration in his speech today.

Image: Brian Lawless

With reporting by Christina Finn in Washington DC

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has presented US president Donald Trump with a bowl of shamrocks as part of the annual tradition, as both leaders celebrated the relationship between their countries.

In his speech, Trump welcomed Varadkar’s partner, Matt Barrett, who did not join him on stage with the president, but was in the crowd.

Trump also talked about the long history between the Irish and America, talking about the shared history of both nations. He also said relations between the two nations were at a historic high, and complemented Irish people.

“They’re smart. They’re sharp. They’re great. And they’re brutal enemies,” Trump said. 

Varadkar in his own speech congratulated US president Donald Trump on the “booming” American economy at the annual Shamrock Ceremony at the White House.

“Your ambition is to make America Great Again, and we can see the results today,” Varadkar said, before handing over the bowl of shamrocks to Trump.

“The American economy is booming. More jobs. Rising incomes. Exactly what you said you’d do. American military power is unrivalled.”

Leo Varadkar visit to US - Day 2 Matt Barrett, the partner of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, listens to speeches during a St Patrick's Day Celebration reception and Shamrock presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington D.C. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The Taoiseach said, however, that he believed that “the greatness of America is about more than economic prowess and military might”.

“It is rooted in the things that make us love America: your people, your values, a new nation conceived in liberty. The land and the home of the brave and the free,” Varadkar said, before quoting from the American Declaration of Independence. 

He said that the fight for civil rights in Northern Ireland was inspired by the struggle of American women like Susan B Anthony, Rosa Parks, Rachel Carson and Marsha Johnson.

Immigration

In his speech, Varadkar took the opportunity also to talk about the need for greater legal immigration pathways for Irish people to live in America, and for closer economic cooperation between the two countries. 

“Mr President, our history is shared, our future is entwined,” Varadkar said.

“And so I believe that future generations of our citizens should have the same opportunity to enrich one another’s societies as past generations have.

“No nation with as many ties as Ireland has to the United States has so few pathways to legal immigration. Whenever we’ve talked about this we’ve found agreement”.

He went on to thank the US congress for its support of proposals to allow Irish people to avail of a new E3 visa programme. Laws allowing Irish people to avail of the visas narrowly missed being passed through the US Senate last year. 

Leo Varadkar visit to US - Day 2 Melania Trump during a St Patrick's Day Celebration reception. Source: Brian Lawless

‘Secure of our place in the EU’

Varadkar painted a picture of Ireland as a proud member of the UN and the EU.

He said the country was a “gateway to the Atlantic world and, I hope, a bridge between Europe and America”, before saying that he wanted to strengthen the economic ties between Ireland and the US.

“Decades of investment by US firms in Ireland have helped transform Ireland from one of the least developed in Europe to one of the most prosperous: a budget surplus, record number of people at work, lower income taxes, rising wages, poverty and deprivation down,” Varadkar said.

We thank you and will never forget your role in making that economic transformation possible. 

The Taoiseach said that “today our economic relationship is very much a two-way street”.

“One hundred thousand Americans across 50 states are employed in Irish-owned companies with more jobs to come,” he said.

Investment by Irish companies in the United States has trebled in recent years. We have a trade surplus in goods and merchandise that’s balanced by your trade surplus over us in services. Jobs and trade are going in both directions. 

He said that free trade and free enterprise made everyone better off. 

“Let’s keep it that way,” Varadkar said. 

He closed by saying that Ireland loves “America and the promise of America”. 

“And we know that making America Great Again, will not mean forgetting or losing sight of what makes it great already,” he said, before handing Trump the bowl of shamrocks. 

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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