Vice President Harris, Second Gentleman Emhoff, distinguished guests and friends,
As we come together this St Patrick’s Day morning, in the breaking of bread, we enact that most ancient and enduring expression of friendship, honoured across cultures.
Thank you, Madam Vice President for inviting Matt and me to your beautiful home, to continue this very special tradition initiated by President Biden, when he was resident here.
As doctors and members of the LGBT community, allow us to say how inspired we are by your advocacy for marriage equality in California and nationwide and your defence of the Affordable Healthcare Act.
From Stonewall to Harvey Milk, America has led the world on LGBT equality and marriage equality is now protected in our constitution. We are also pursuing our own Affordable Healthcare Programme in Ireland called Sláintecare – abolishing hospital charges, capping the cost of prescription medicines, abolishing doctors fees for children and seniors and those on modest incomes and phasing out private practice in public hospitals.
We have much in common.
This year, in Ireland, we are marking many anniversaries: the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement; 50 years of Ireland in the European Union; and 100 years since we joined the League of Nations.
The international landscape has changed dramatically in the sweep of time. For Ireland, however, one relationship has endured throughout - our close and deep bond with the United States. We will always be grateful for that.
Madame Vice-President, in particular, today, I want to acknowledge the central role which the United States has played in the peace process on our island, driving it forward at critical junctures, when few others could have.
To mark this, Madam Vice President, I would like to present you with an Irish silver bell as a token of appreciation, and as an emblem of the principles that both our countries hold dear - peace and freedom.
Of course, I am conscious also of the special resonances of a bell for the United States with the world-renowned Liberty Bell. A symbol of US freedom and independence, of hope and of equality - principles to inspire us and guide us for the next 25 years.
As we look to the future, the agreement reached between the EU and the UK last month, the Windsor Framework, has the potential to restore the good relations between Ireland and UK and to restore the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement – the All Party Assembly, powersharing Executive and the NSMC.
It should also help to open a new chapter in relations between the EU and the UK. We are not there yet but with good faith on all sides, and the continuing help of our friends, we can get there.
Madam Vice-President, as we work to underpin peace in Ireland, we cannot but be struck by its absence in other parts of the world.
Most especially, we think of the extraordinarily brave people of Ukraine who have endured more than a year of suffering as a result of Russia’s attacks. We stand with them for as long as it takes.
Russia’s war is a threat to the international order on which we rely. It is an affront to human decency in every possible way. We will work together to hold its perpetrators to account. Thank you for the leadership of the US on this issue.
And thank you, Madame Vice President, on behalf of Ireland and all of Europe for your leadership on this most important matter.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh – thank you again – for the warm welcome, and for your kind hospitality here this morning.
A very happy St Patrick’s Day to you all.