Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On St. Patrick's Day, President Obama Welcomes Ireland's New Prime Minister

Taoiseach Enda Kenny makes his first visit to the White House; National Chamber Choir of Ireland performs at St. Pat's reception...
Tomorrow evening when President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a White House reception to mark St. Patrick's Day, there will be a very special guest: The new Taoiseach of Ireland, Prime Minister Enda Kenny, will be visiting the President for the first time. Kenny, 59, was sworn into office on March 9, the first member of his party, Fine Gael, to be Taoiseach since 1982. He'll be accompanied to Washington by his wife, Fionnula.

The evening's entertainment will be special, too: The National Chamber Choir of Ireland will sing the premiere performance of composer Bill Whelan’s specially commissioned Gné na Gaeltachta. There will be a Shamrock Ceremony, as Kenny presents President Obama with a silver bowl of the lucky greens. But contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, there will not be homebrewed White House beer served during the festivities. (Above: Kenny holding his seal of office after he was sworn in)

Kenny received a congratulatory call from the President last Friday, and though the White House had already invited Kenny for a St. Patrick's Day visit, President Obama personally repeated the invitation. During the call, Kenny told President Obama that he'd been in Denver in August of 2008, when the Democratic party anointed him as the presidential candidate, Kenny's spokesman said. The President responded by remarking on the large number of Irish staffers at the White House.

Kenny's Irish-American meet n' greets...
Kenny and his wife will begin St. Patrick's Day with a breakfast hosted by Vice President Joe Biden--a proud Irish American himself--at his Naval Observatory residence. Kenny will spend lunch with House Speaker John Boehner, at his Friends of Ireland luncheon on Capitol Hill--and the President and Vice President will attend, too. After, Kenny will visit Sen. Patrick Leahy, the third most senior member of the US Senate and the pre-eminent Irish-American senator. Then it will be time for an Oval Office meeting with President Obama.

"The two leaders look forward to continuing their discussion on events in Libya and other international and domestic issues," the White House announced about the business end of St.Patrick's Day.

President Obama is about 1/8th Irish, and has roots in Moneygall in County Offaly, a tiny village west of Dublin. Mr. Obama's second great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, emigrated to America in 1850; Irish geneologists have traced Mr. Obama's roots back to his sixth great grandfather, Joseph Kearney, born about 1698 in Ireland.

*Photo by Getty