Biden hosts Irish Taoiseach on St Patrick's Day

US President receives crystal bowl of shamrocks from Leo Varadkar during ceremony at White House

US President Joe Biden meets Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on St Patrick's Day in the Oval Office of the White House. AFP
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US President Joe Biden hosted Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Friday as part of a long-standing St Patrick's Day meeting between the leaders.

While the annual Washington tradition is about celebrating the historic bonds between Ireland and the US, Mr Biden also took time to reflect on the approaching 25th anniversary of the US-brokered Good Friday accord — the agreement that helped end sectarian violence that had raged for decades over the question of Northern Ireland unifying with Ireland or remaining part of the UK.

The President also underscored a more recent agreement, known as the Windsor Framework, that aims to ease tension over Northern Ireland's trading status following the UK's exit from the EU and to maintain the quarter century-old peace accord.

“It’s a vital, vital step and that’s going to help ensure all the people in Northern Ireland have an opportunity to realise their full potential,” Mr Biden said of the framework during remarks at a Capitol Hill luncheon to mark the holiday.

Earlier at the White House, he was presented with a bowl of shamrocks from Leo Varadkar, known as the Taoiseach, in a tradition that began in 1952.

It was the first shamrock bowl handover for Mr Biden after last year's ceremony was scuppered when the Irish leader at the time, Micheal Martin, tested positive for Covid-19. Mr Biden and Mr Martin's first meeting was virtual, too, because of the pandemic.

Mr Biden, who often speaks of his Irish heritage and is fond of quoting Irish poets, declared March Irish-American heritage month. The White House even dyed the water of the South Lawn fountain green for the occasion.

Mr Biden is one of 23 American presidents with Irish ancestry.

He has said he plans to soon visit both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Mr Varadkar also saluted Mr Biden and the US for helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia.

“We really want to profoundly thank you and America for your leadership in relation to Ukraine,” Mr Varadker said.

“We’re going to roll out the red carpet” for Mr Biden's visit in Ireland, he added.

US Vice President Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff, right, with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Matthew Barrett in Washington. EPA

Before his meeting with Mr Biden, the Irish prime minister and his partner had breakfast with Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband.

During the breakfast, Mr Varadkar said the US has been an important player in promoting peace in Ireland “at critical points when few others had the influence to do so”.

“People around the world listen to what the White House says and President Biden has said all the right things from our point of view in the past couple of years,” Mr Varadkar said.

“I'm also keen to thank him for America's support for Ukraine — American leadership at this time is crucial.”

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: March 17, 2023, 9:53 PM