HomePoliticsWith a pocket of shamrocks, Biden celebrates St. Patrick's Day

With a pocket of shamrocks, Biden celebrates St. Patrick’s Day

WASHINGTON — The first clue Friday was the fountain in front of the White House, from which a brilliant Kelly green flowed.

There was also the green tie and shamrocks in the breast pocket of his jacket that President Biden wore to greet Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, or taoiseach, on his traditional visit on St. Patrick’s Day. Not to mention the confirmation of Mr. Biden’s visit to Ireland next month.

But the real proof that the Oval Office is occupied by a fiercely proud Irish-American was Mr. Biden’s own tweet, noting his ancestry as the “great-great-grandson of the County Mayo Blewitts and County Louth Finnegans.” .

“As the proud son of Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, I wish you all a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day,” the president wrote.

Mr. Biden is only the second Irish Catholic to occupy the White House, after John F. Kennedy. (Ronald Reagan, who was also an Irish American, preempted him in office by more than 40 years.) But the current president may be most unabashedly proud of his Irish roots, often saying that he got his “Irish values” from his mother. , who told him to treat people with respect and dignity.

His mother also told him not to bow down to the Queen of England, advice he said he took during two meetings with the monarch, first as senator and then as president.

But if there has been any Irish-English family tension in Biden’s past, he has also been an ardent supporter of efforts to secure peace in Northern Ireland. The treaty that created the framework for that peace, known as the Good Friday Agreement, turns 25 this year and will be the reason for Biden’s first visit to Ireland as president in April.

“I promise you we will roll out the red carpet and it will be a visit like no other,” Mr. Varadkar told the president before their meeting in the Oval Office on Friday. “Everyone is already excited.”

That includes Mr. Biden.

There has been anticipation within the West Wing for months about the president’s likely visit in the spring. The official announcement did not come until some ongoing disputes over power-sharing in the countries were resolved, but Biden has made it clear in recent days that he plans to make the trip to mark the anniversary of Good Friday.

Aides and reporters await a nearly giddy president as he returns to his ancestral homeland for the first time since assuming the office he sought for decades. Speaking to lawmakers on Capitol Hill for the annual St. Patrick’s Day luncheon on Friday, Biden recalled an earlier visit to meet with members of his extended family in Ireland.

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“It was a great, great experience,” he said, joking that he met a lot of relatives who “were not actually in jail.”

He remembered his grandfather, who told him that “the best drop of blood in you is Irish.” But it was another maxim of his grandfather’s that may have helped him succeed amid the bitterness and division of his campaigns.

“Joey, never bend, never bow, never kneel, never give in,” Biden recalled. “Never never.”

The president was introduced at the luncheon by his host, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, another Irish-American politician and Biden’s main adversary in Washington.

McCarthy struck a remarkably warm note in his introduction, saying he wanted to have the kind of productive relationship with Biden that former President Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., also an Irish-American, had with Reagan.

“Our goals may be the same,” McCarthy said. “That we put this country first.”

It may take more than the luck of the Irish to pull it off at a time of intense disagreement and division in Washington, and a presidential election in less than two years. But Biden tried to match McCarthy’s optimism.

Uttering a phrase that probably won’t be used very often in the days to come, Biden said, “I agree with the speaker.”

“There’s no reason we can’t find common ground,” Biden said. “There is no reason why we cannot hope to change this direction that the wingers in both parties are pushing.”

On Friday night, Mr. Biden hosted a shamrock presentation and reception at the White House for Mr. Varadkar and others, capping off a day of celebrating the Irish.

The Irish prime minister praised the United States for supporting Ireland throughout its history, noting the support of Democratic presidents like Jimmy Carter and Republicans like Reagan.

But, he said, Mr. Biden is special.

“As we know, every American president is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” Mr. Varadkar told guests in the East Room of the White House. “But some are more Irish than others. And I think it’s fair to say that today we are celebrating our national day with a president who is unequivocally the son of Ireland.”

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