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Remarks by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D. at the White House Shamrock Ceremony & St. Patrick’s Day Reception

Mr President and First Lady, Madam Vice President and Second Gentleman, Senators, Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen. 


Every American President is a little Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but some are more Irish than others.  Today we are celebrating our national day with a President who is unmistakably a son of Ireland.  President Biden, in your life we see reflected the story of Ireland.  It is a story of service and patriotism, of courage in the face of tragedy and, above all, of faith in the future.   


So, tonight we remember the Blewitts of County Mayo and the Finnegans of County Louth and all those who left Ireland to find a new dream in a new land.     


In Ireland this year we had a new national holiday in honour of St. Brigid, one of our three patron saints.  Brigid represents women, new life and the spring and inspires us to make our society more equal. Columcille represents learning and our engagement with the world and inspires us to play our part in the community of nations.  Patrick represents liberty, the slave and migrant who came to Ireland, and who ended up teaching us about Christianity and the wider world of which we are part. 


Legend has it that St. Patrick rid the snakes from Ireland.  We now know that there were no actual snakes in Ireland in Patrick’s time: the snakes he banished were the same snakes our world faces today – ignorance, fear and despair. 


Ireland is full of hope in how we can fix the problems we face, both home and abroad.  And Ireland is full of hope for what we can achieve working together with each other and our friends. 


Our dream of freedom and independence and statehood secured 100 years ago was achieved because of the support of the United States, and the solidarity of Irish-Americans who helped us achieve national self-determination. 


You continue to keep that dream alive. 


Next month we mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It could never have been achieved without your steadfast support and commitment. 


At especially difficult or fragile moments in the search for peace, successive Presidents – from both sides of the aisle – stepped in with words of encouragement and hope, a hand on the shoulder or a gentle shove in the right direction.  


We remember President Carter’s policy statement on Northern Ireland in August 1977 expressing American concern and urging that we find a peaceful way forward. 


President Ronald Reagan spoke of finding ‘a just and peaceful solution’ on St Patrick’s Day in 1981, and this phrase was echoed by President Bill Clinton in Derry’s Guildhall Square fourteen years later. 


Mr President, carried in these words was a promise of American solidarity. A promise fulfilled. Blessed are the peacemakers. And blessed are those who work to keep the peace alive, who keep the faith.   


This year, as we mark the Anniversary, we look to the future, and what still needs to be done.  Our mission now is to find ways of realising the potential of everyone who calls Ireland home.  


We want to see the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement restored so they can provide hope to a new generation.   And we want to see the people of Northern Ireland benefit from the rich economic opportunities available to them. 


Mr President, 


Around the world, the flame of freedom burns brightly despite the efforts of those who try to extinguish it. 


Our collective freedom is imperilled by the damage we are doing to our planet, our changing climate and the loss of biodiversity.   


Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine has reminded us that freedom can never be taken for granted.  


When we defend freedom abroad, we are protecting our own freedom at home.   


We support their fight for freedom because we know what it is like to have liberty threatened and denied.   And we know what it is like to have friends and allies who keep the dream alive. 


To honour the many generations of Americans who helped make our dream of freedom a reality – and as a permanent reminder of the strong and everlasting relationship between our two countries - I have brought a special gift from Ireland this year.   It is our tricolour - our national symbol of peace, reconciliation and hope.   


Through its colours, it symbolises the two traditions on our island - the green and the orange – and the promise of lasting peace between them.  The dream of a shared future on a shared island. 


This special flag has been flown just once before, at an event earlier this month to mark the 175th anniversary of the first flight of our flag in Ireland.  The very first Irish tricolour was flown in Waterford by Thomas Francis Meagher, a 24-year-old idealist, who later fought for freedom in this country in some of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War.   


His bravery – and that of the Irish Brigade – was so great, that when President Lincoln visited one battlefield, he kissed the Irish colours saying “God Bless the Irish Flag”. 


I hope this flag will find a permanent home in this House as a reminder of the unbreakable bonds between our countries and our people.  It represents our values and our history as well as our faith in what we can achieve together in the future.   


Thank you, Mr President, and thank you First Lady, for the warm welcome you have extended to me and to my delegation on this very special occasion.  


We look forward to welcoming you to Ireland soon.  Welcoming you home.  You will both be received with open arms and with the warmest of hearts.    


Go raibh míle maith agaibh, agus beannachtaí Lá Fhéile Pádraig oraibh go léir. 


Thank you and a very happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all.