President Joe Biden will host Irish leader Leo Varadkar for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the White House on Friday after the COVID pandemic scuttled the festivities for the past two years.
Green will be the theme of the day amid a packed schedule of holiday-related activities that includes an Oval Office meeting, a lunch on Capitol Hill hosted by President Kevin McCarthy and Irish eggs for breakfast with Vice President Kamala Harris.
Varadkar’s visit comes after Biden said he planned to visit both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland next month, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement brokered by the UNITED STATES.
The deal helped end the sectarian violence that had raged for three decades over whether Northern Ireland should unite with Ireland or remain part of the UK.
“I want to recognize the central role that the United States has played in the peace process on our island, pushing it forward and the critical points,” Varadkar said Friday morning when meeting with Harris.
The pair will also discuss the war in Ukraine when they meet in the Oval Office.
Vice President Kamala Harris toasts as she hosts a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, seated left
Prior to his meeting with Biden, Varadkar, known as the taoiseach, and his partner Matthew Barrett visited the Naval Observatory for breakfast with Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff. ‘Eggs St. Patrick’ were on the menu. It’s an Irish twist on Eggs Benedict.
Harris wore a green trouser suit for the occasion. All three men had trefoil in the breast pockets of their suit jackets.
She acknowledged Biden’s love for all things Irish and noted, “He’s quite exuberant in that joy and I’ve now caught the virus.”
Later Friday, the boyband One Direction and Irish singer Niall Horan will perform for leaders and guests at the White House.
Horan was one of five members of One Direction, the popular British-Irish boy band of 2010, which has sold over 70 million records worldwide. The band officially broke up in January 2016.
During Friday’s visit, Varadkar is expected to present Biden with a crystal bowl engraved with shamrocks, a tradition that began in 1952.
Last year, on St. Patrick’s Day, then-Prime Minister Micheál Martin tested positive for COVID, leading him to meet Biden virtually instead. And, in 2021, Martin and Biden celebrated virtually because of the pandemic.
Varadkar, who served as Taoiseach from 2017 to 2020, returned to the post in December. He was last in Washington for St. Patrick’s Day when Donald Trump was president.
President Joe Biden is proud of his Irish roots and talks about it often
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Matt Barrett meet guests at the St. Patrick’s Day reception at the Irish Ambassadors Residence on Thursday evening
Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff (right) greet Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (second from left) and his partner Matthew Barrett (left)
The party becomes a tradition to be celebrated at the White House. About 31.5 million American residents claim Irish heritage, according to the census bureau, second only to German.
Biden, in particular, is proud of his Irish roots, talks about it often, and in most of his speeches quotes an Irish poet.
His mother’s family – the Finnegans – were Irish-American immigrants.
The president has long made it clear that he wants to visit Ireland as president, but Northern Ireland’s trading status was causing diplomatic headaches during a presidential visit.
But that hurdle was lifted when Britain and the European Union agreed to the Windsor Framework, clearing the way for trade to cross the Irish-Northern Irish border.
Former One Direction member, Irish singer Niall Horan, will perform at a White House St. Patrick’s Day reception on Friday
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, essentially remained in the European Union market, together with its neighbor the Republic of Ireland, an independent country, when the Britain voted to leave the EU.
The Windsor Framework will ensure the flow of goods without upsetting the Good Friday Agreement.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak personally invited Biden to come, when he met him in San Diego on Monday at an aukus event.
“I know this is something very special and personal for you. We would love to have you,” the prime minister told the US president.
‘Twenty five years. It seems to me like it was yesterday. Like yesterday,’ Biden pondered Sunak’s invitation. “Thank you,” he added.
Biden last visited Ireland in an official capacity in 2016 as vice president. This tour included stops in Dublin, Mayo and Louth – the capital plus the two counties of his ancestors.