US President Barack Obama has confirmed to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, at a St Patrick’s Day reception in the White House, that he is to visit Ireland in May and it is hoped that he will come west as part of that trip. Former US President John F Kennedy visited Galway during his reign in office in 1963 and Galway City councillor Padraig Conneely extended the same invitation to President Obama during a visit to the US in 2009.
Since then contacts have been made by the US Embassy to Cllr Conneely. The Taoiseach said President Obama could expect a “rapturous” welcome from the Irish people, and that his visit is a great vote of confidence in our country at a difficult time.
Mr Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will be on a State visit to Britain from May 24 to 26 and they will be in France on May 26 and 27 for a G8 summit. It is thought President Obama will come to Ireland on dates either before or after his Britain and France trips.
Queen Elizabeth is also visiting Ireland in May and her three-day trip is expected either side of Mr Obama’s visit to London.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny presented President Obama with the traditional St Patrick’s Day shamrock. Mr Kenny said it was “an honour and a privilege” to meet President Obama on behalf of the Irish people.
His day in Washington began with breakfast with vice President Joe Biden before Taoiseach Kenny met with President Obama in the Oval Office where he repeated the invitation to the President to visit Ireland.
Also as part of their discussions Mr Obama spoke with Taoiseach Kenny about how Ireland would bounce back from economic turmoil.
During the breakfast meeting with the vice President Mr Kenny extended an invitation to him and his wife to come to Mayo where he promised them a “very warm welcome home indeed”. Mr Kenny pointed out that there are “no finer (golf ) courses than in County Mayo”. Vice President Biden’s late mother, Jean Finnegan Biden, shared an Irish heritage and links with Mayo.
Mr Kenny said Ireland was “plotting a new course of our own and shaping a new destiny”. He added “our destination is clear”. Mr Kenny told Mr Biden: “I come here with one clear message: Ireland will recover, renew and rebuild under new leadership at home.”
On Wednesday night Mr Kenny addressed over a thousand guests at the annual gala dinner of the American Ireland Fund where he said Ireland was “far from finished”, and that the election marked a new dawn for the country.
The fund is aiming to raise $100m for Irish charities by the end of 2013.
The Taoiseach also held a 30-minute meeting with US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Wednesday evening where they discussed the global economic situation.
Mr Kenny repeated his Government's determination to conclusively address the reduction of the budget deficit and reform of the banking system.
The Taoiseach's trip is part of the new Government's cost-cutting scaled back St Patrick's Day overseas travel programme. Last year 22 Government representatives travelled to 24 countries. This year only eight countries will be visited by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, and seven other ministers.