Biden receives the Prime Minister of Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is set to receive Ireland’s Prime Minister on Friday after the COVID-19 pandemic brought the long-running St. Patrick’s Day gathering to a halt for two straight years.

Leo Varadkar, known as Taoiseach, and his partner Matthew Barrett will attend a breakfast with Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. Then they will head to the US Capitol for lunch with congressional leaders and Biden before the two leaders meet.

The meeting with one of the US’s key allies comes after Biden said he plans to visit both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland this year, the 25th anniversary of the US-brokered Good Friday Agreement, which has helped bring the since three years of raging sectarian violence to end decades over the question of Northern Ireland joining Ireland or remaining in the UK.

The deal came under increasing pressure after the UK left the European Union, but a recent deal between the UK and the EU addresses some of the issues that have arisen around trade and goods that the Irish Crossing the lake from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The White House said the deal, known as the Windsor Framework, was an important step in maintaining the peace deal.

Varadkar took office in December for a second term in a job-sharing deal struck by the country’s center-coalition government. The two leaders are also expected to discuss continued support for Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion.

Varadkar is expected to present Biden with an engraved crystal bowl of shamrocks, a tradition that began in 1952. The shamrocks made it into the Oval Office last year, even though then-Prime Minister Micheál Martin didn’t. He contracted COVID-19 at an event and had to attend the meeting virtually while isolating at nearby Blair House, where world leaders often hang out when they visit the White House. Their first annual meeting also took place virtually because of the pandemic.

Biden will also host a reception for Varadkar later Friday at the White House, itself designed and built by an Irish-born man, James Hoban. He oversaw the original construction, rebuilding it after it burned down, and adding renovations until his death in 1831.

Biden, who often speaks of his Irish heritage and likes to quote Irish poets, declared March Irish-American Heritage Month. The White House is even turning the South Lawn fountain green. According to the Census Bureau, some 31.5 million US citizens claim Irish heritage, second only to Germany.

“Ireland and the United States are forever bound together by our people and our passion. Everything between us runs deep,” Biden said in his proclamation.

Much like the turkey pardon or Easter egg rolling, the tradition of St. Patrick’s Day has evolved into an annual affair.

“That’s the wonderful thing about this White House history,” said Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association. “It’s full of rich cultural traditions, not just from our own country.”

Colleen Long, The Associated Press


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