Remarks by House Speaker Paul Ryan, US President Donald Trump and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny went from Irish jokes to professions of friendship to political entreaties as the three men opened the Friends of Ireland Luncheon in the US Capitol.
Mr. Ryan delivered the friendly opening, praising "a small but special island," and joshing about glorious St. Patrick, glorious Guinness, the easy going Irish, a hurler and a musician also called Paul Ryan, the efforts of Americans to endear themselves to the Irish, his staff's horror at his own attempt at an Irish accent, and Mr. Kenny's ability to withstand "backbiting from backbenchers... you truly have the luck of the Irish." He wrapped up by saying of Ireland "Her light floods the world."
This year's lunch (black cod) was a ten-table affair packed with members of Congress, administration officials and Irish visitors, and all the green jackets and dresses and ties you'd expect.
At one central table, Nancy Pelosi sitting between Greg Walden and Kellyanne Conway, with Kevin McCarthy and Mike Pence.
At another: Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Roy Blunt, Gary Cohn and a very excited looking Sean Spicer.
Peter King was at the table for the president, Paul Ryan, Taoiseach Kenny, and his wife. To other side of podium a table with Gerry Adams, and Ian Paisley, pointed out by Mr Kenny.
President Trump spoke for five minutes on the contributions of the Irish to America, opening by declaring Mr Kenny "his new friend" and saying his wife was "something else... we're friends now too."
He recalled the history of the St Patrick's Day Parade in New York, at which he himself had spent "a lot of time." Mr Trump said that with each year of the parade the Irish saw more and more success, including in the form of the St Patrick's Cathedral as an "immortal monument to the faith of Irish Catholics in America" and noted the election of John F Kennedy as a particular high point.
In a lone political break, the president described an Irish saying that calls for people to "always remember to forget the friends that remained untrue," and to remain loyal to the rest, and said that "politically speaking" he agreed. The remainder of the remarks were devoted to more expressions of friendship, in which the president said that under him the US-Irish relationship would be "closer than ever before" and that "we love Ireland and love the people of Ireland."
Mr. Kenny opened with several remarks in Gaelic and a joke that he had said nothing disparaging, but merely that he and his wife and team were happy to be there. In an apparently off-the-cuff laugh line he then looked down, said he saw the president's remarks, and cited that as proof "the Irish have the capacity to change everything... I just saw the President of the United States read from his script entirely!" This cracked up the room, including the president, who laughed along with Mr Kenny's wife.
((Pool, which has been holding in rotunda, is getting moved to a new location while the lunch continues, so this report will continue shortly with the rest of Mr. Kenny's remarks, which touched on several contentious issues.))