President Joe Biden pointed out that he is the only Irishman who has never had a drink when he spoke at a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon on Capitol Hill on Friday, joking that that means he’s not really Irish.
Biden, who is proud of his Irish roots and talks about them often, quipped: “I’m the only Irishman you’ve ever known, even though he’s never had a drink.” I’m not really Irish.
The president has said that he has been a lifelong tee-totaler because one of his favorite uncles, who he lived with as a child, was a heavy drinker. “There are enough alcoholics in my family”, he has said about his decision. Neither he nor former President Donald Trump were drinkers.
Biden hosts Irish leader Leo Varadkar at the White House for the holiday, which is known to celebrate with corned beef and Guinness.
But the president did not discuss the visit or any other matter when asked about it. He refused to answer questions from American reporters in the Oval Office on Friday, despite his press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying she would.
President Joe Biden was not taking questions from the press when he met with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office.
Jean-Pierre, at his press conference on Thursday, was asked why Biden was not holding a press conference with Varadkar. Traditionally, the president and a visiting foreign leader hold what’s called dos y dos, a press conference in which they each call in two reporters from their country’s press corps.
Biden’s last two and two in the White House were in December, when he visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Varadkar answered questions from reporters outside the West Wing in the driveway before heading to the Capitol to join Biden for lunch. European Union President Ursula von der Leyen also answered questions from reporters outside the White House after her meeting with Biden, answering them in the dark and in the rain.
Jean-Pierre argued that Biden welcomes questions and could be asked by the press during the Oval Office event on Friday.
“You’re going to get a chance, or your colleagues are going to have a chance to ask questions during the oval pool spray,” Jean-Pierre said Thursday, referring to the moment reporters reach the top of Biden’s. meetings
“So that is an opportunity to be able to ask a question to the president or the head of state that is visiting the White House that day,” he said.
But the reporters rejected it. “They yell at us during those,” one told him. “Normally yelling at the press when we’re in the Oval Office,” said another.
After Biden and Varadkar made their opening remarks, White House staff ushered reporters out the door before they could ask any questions, shouting “thank you, press” over any attempt to speak by the White House. press.
The only question Biden answered was from an Irish reporter as the press was leaving the Oval, saying “soon” when asked when he would visit Ireland.
Jean-Pierre argued that a joint decision of two and two is up to the White House and the visiting country.
‘Look, the two plus two is something that is done in coordination with the country you are visiting. That is not something that is decided unilaterally. That is something that is under discussion with the other country’.
‘There is an opportunity where the press will be in the room with the two leaders. I can’t talk about who is going to answer questions or who isn’t,” he noted.
A United States Secret Service agent orders members of the media to leave the Oval Office
White House security escorts the media as Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets with President Joe Biden on St. Patrick’s Day in the Oval Office
President Joe Biden, President Kevin McCarthy and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during lunch at the Capitol Building
Biden and Varadkar, after their meeting, went to the Capitol for a lunch hosted by Republican Chairman Kevin McCarthy.
The president noted that he and McCarthy, despite their political differences, shared their Irish roots.
Biden often speaks of his Irish ancestry, quoting an Irish poet in most of his speeches.
His mother’s family, the Finnegans, were Irish-American immigrants. Biden visited her family’s pub, Lily Finnegan’s, in Carlingford, County Louth, when she visited Ireland in 2016.
His great-great-grandfather was born in Ireland and immigrated to America.
It’s good to have you back in the Oval Office, Taoiseach. It’s a great day at my grandparents’ house, our house, a great day here,” Biden said.
Varadkar said the entire Republic of Ireland was looking forward to seeing Biden. The president is expected to travel there next month to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday deal.
“I promise you that we will roll out the red carpet and it will be a visit like no other. Everyone is already excited,” the taoiseach said.
The White House turned green for the occasion. The water in the North Lawn fountain was tinted green, shamrocks decorated the Oval Office, and the president wore a green tie with white dots.
Varadkar’s visit comes after Biden said he plans to visit both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland next month, which marks the 25th anniversary of the US-brokered Good Friday deal.
The agreement helped end sectarian violence that had raged for three decades over whether Northern Ireland should be unified with Ireland or remain part of the United Kingdom.
“I want to recognize the central role that the United States has played in the peace process on our island, moving it forward and the critical points,” Varadkar said Friday morning during his meeting with Harris.
The fountain on the North Lawn of the White House is dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day
Spectators on O’Connell Bridge watching the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin
Before his meeting with Biden, Varadkar, known as the taoiseach, and his partner Matthew Barrett visited the Naval Observatory to have 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 pantsuit for the occasion. All three men had shamrocks in the top pockets of their jackets.
He acknowledged Biden’s love of all things Irish, noting: “He’s quite exuberant in that joy and now I’ve got the bug.”
Later on 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 2010 English-Irish boy band, which has sold more than 70 million records worldwide. The band officially broke up in January 2016.
Last year, on St. Patrick’s Day, then-Prime Minister Micheál Martin tested positive for COVID, prompting him to meet virtually with Biden. And, in 2021, Martin and Biden celebrated the pandemic virtually.
Varadkar, who served as Taoiseach from 2017 to 2020, returned to the role in December. He was last in Washington for St. Patrick’s Day when Donald Trump was president.
Vice President Kamala Harris toasts as she hosts a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast with Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, seated left.
The holiday is becoming a tradition to celebrate at the White House. About 31.5 million US residents claim Irish ancestry, according to the Census Bureau, second only to German.
The president made it clear long ago that he wanted to visit Ireland as president, but Northern Ireland’s trade status was causing a diplomatic headache when it came to a presidential visit.
But that hurdle was removed when Britain and the European Union agreed to the Windsor Framework, paving the way for trade to cross the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Former One Direction member, Irish singer Niall Horan, will perform at a St. Patrick’s Day reception at the White House on Friday.
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, essentially remained in the European Union market, along with its independent neighbor, the Republic of Ireland, when Great Britain voted to leave. of the EU.
The Windsor Framework will keep the goods moving without disturbing the Good Friday Agreement.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak personally invited Biden to come, when he met him in San Diego on Monday during an aukus event.
I know it is something very special and personal for you. We would love to have you,” the prime minister told the US president.
‘Twenty five years. Seems like yesterday. Like yesterday,’ Biden reflected on Sunak’s invitation. ‘Thank you,’ she added.
Biden last visited Ireland in an official capacity in 2016 as Vice President. That visit included stops in Dublin, Mayo and Louth, the capital and the two counties of his ancestors.