Obama, on St. Pat's Day, announces trip to Ireland

Last Updated: Sun, Mar 20, 2011 12:30 hrs

President Barack Obama chose St. Patrick's Day to announce that he's adding Ireland to the itinerary for his trip to Europe in May.

Obama made the announcement as he welcomed new Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny to the White House for an annual ceremony of Irish-American solidarity.

He joked that Vice President Joe Biden, who is Irish American, was "envious because he wants to go first."

The president said Ireland is "bouncing back" from its economic crisis and that Kenny had shared his economic recovery plans with Obama.

Kenny said Ireland was "open for business" and that Obama's plans to visit represent "a significant statement of confidence" in the country.

Obama already had announced plans to make a state visit to Britain from May 24-26, just ahead of the G-8 summit in France.

Kenny invited Obama to play golf with him in Ireland. The president sized Kenny up as a "pretty good golfer" and said he'd need to do some practicing before playing with him.

The prime minister began his day with breakfast at the vice president's residence and had lunch with Obama, Biden and congressional leaders at the Capitol, where the entertainment included an Air Force bagpipe band.

At the luncheon, Obama joked about his Irish ancestry — pointing to a great-great-great-grandfather on his mother's side from Moneygall — and said the meal set a good bipartisan tone. He added: "I hope we can summon the spirit of this day and work together with renewed commitment to bring about better days for all of our people."

The revelry shifted back to the White House in the evening with a packed East Room reception attended by members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries, governors and other guests — many of them sporting various shades of green.

"I can't imagine a better place to be than right here with the sons and daughters of Ireland, and those who wish they were," Obama said.

In his remarks, Kenny told Obama that when he comes to Ireland he will "come, in a way, home to Ireland."

Kenny, who took office last week, also was meeting with congressional leaders and potential business investors during his two-day visit to Washington.

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