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Remarks by the Vice President with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Ireland During a St. Patrick's Day Celebration Breakfast

March 15, 2024

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay. Good morning, everyone. Good morning, and Happy St. Patrick's Day. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

So, Doug and I are very honored to once again host the Taoiseach and Mr. Barrett back at the Vice President's Residence. I -- I don't think that we told you both, but Doug and I decided after our last visit here that you would be our new "couples friend." (Laughter.)

And as you know, Taoiseach, nearly 1 in 10 Americans proudly claim Irish ancestry. And St. Patrick's Day, then, is a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate the culture and the connection between Ireland and the United States.

And I am proud, then, to continue this breakfast tradition here the Vice President's Residence and to host you again and your spouse to celebrate.

And this year, we celebrate 100 years -- 100 years of diplomatic relations between the United States and Ireland. And as we know, the Irish people have been a part of American history and the American story since the very beginning, way beyond those 100 years.

In 1776, three signatories to the Declaration of Independence were Irish born.

Then, in the 19th century, Frederick Douglass found refuge in Ireland when he fled slavery. And I recall having extensive conversations about that. The historians among us will know that Frederick Douglass, when he went to Ireland, famously said it was the first time he fully felt like a man, because of the kinship and the dignity then that he received in Ireland.

And America has, of course, served as a place of hope for millions of Irish immigrants and their descendants, including those who have held the highest offices in our land. And currently, of course, that is our President Joe Biden.

Throughout the past century, our nations have stood together, united by shared commitments to freedom and opportunity.

And, Taoiseach, I want to thank you, in particular, for your leadership and your partnership. Early on in your career, you worked to strengthen the ties between the Irish diaspora and the Emerald Isle. And you have been courageous in the fight for women's reproductive freedom.

You have also been a global leader. And last month, you became the first Taoiseach to attend the Munich Security Conference, joining me and dozens of other global leaders. And you have made clear that you intend that Ireland will play a positive role on the world stage, given the security challenges that we all face.

We are proud to work with you to support the people of Ukraine in their fight for democracy and independence. Under your leadership, Ireland has hosted one of the highest per capita populations of Ukrainian refugees -- a testament to the generosity and the compassion of the Irish people. And I commend you for leading by example when you hosted in your own home a refugee from Kyiv, who left days after the invasion began.

Regarding the conflict in the Middle East -- triggered, of course, by Hamas's brutal terrorist attack -- Ireland has been a leader in providing food, water, and medicine to the people of Gaza.

And when it comes to human rights, Ireland made history in 2015 when it became the first nation in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by referendum.

On a personal note, Taoiseach, you have been an extraordinary role model for the people all around the world as one of the only openly LGBT leaders in history. And you so graciously talked last year here about the work that you and I have done to support and fight for the rights of the LGBT community. And to see you and Mr. Barrett on the world stage is important for so many reasons, as our long march for progress continues on.

So, as we look to the next century of partnership, I am confident that the bonds between the people of our nations will only grow stronger. And I'm confident that our work together will continue to advance the cause of freedom and opportunity.

So, I offer a toast to the next 100 years, Taoiseach. Cheers, cheers, cheers.

(Vice President Harris offers a toast.)

And, Taoiseach, the floor is yours.

We're fitting a lot of folks in here. (Laughter.)

TAOISEACH VARADKAR: Thank you. Thank you so much, Vice President Harris, Second Gentleman Emhoff, distinguished guests, friend. (Speaks Irish.) (No translation provided.)

Thank you so much, Madam Vice President, for once again inviting me and Matt to your beautiful home. This act of friendship and hospitality, I believe, goes back to when President Biden was vice president and lived here. And it celebrates, I think, the wonderful relationship between our two countries now and forever.

Madam Vice President, to update the words of one of your distinguished predecessors: The President of the United States has 332 million bosses; the Vice President has 332 million plus one. (Laughter.) And I think, in some ways, it's the hardest job, but one that can have an extraordinary impact.

And I know a little bit what it's like myself, as somebody who went from Taoiseach, prime minister of the country, to Tánaiste, the deputy prime minister, before returning to the top job at the end of the last year. And I'm not going to lie, I know which one I prefer. (Laughter.) And I do even find it a little bit easier, even when it's harder.

But I know that the best vice presidents have been able to show enormous leadership and vision in the role, trailblazers who've spoken from the heart.

President Biden, when he served as vice president, showed enormous courage and leadership in 2012, when he spoke out in favor of marriage equality, helping to encourage the administration and the country along the road to greater equality. I remember that interview really well. And it was a very significant intervention at the time.

And I believe you, Madam Vice President, showed great courage and leadership in recent weeks, when you spoke publicly in favor of a ceasefire in Gaza. I'm sure it can't have been easy, but it was the right thing to do, and your words echoed all over the world.

Like you, we call for the unconditional and immediate release of all of the hostages, a very significant increase in humanitarian aid -- food, medicine, sanitation, electricity -- and an end to the fighting by both sides, Israel and Hamas. And we support the work of the United States in trying to bring that about.

There is a terrible humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza -- a very human tragedy, which I think will haunt us all for years to come.

In Ireland, we know how quickly atrocities can lead to calls for vengeance, creating new cycles of hatred and bitterness. But we also know that the cycle can be broken, and that new hope can replace old hatreds.

The United States helped us to find peace. And now th- -- let us work together to build a just and lasting peace in the Middle East for Israel, Palestine, and its Arab neighbors.

We know from our own story that finding peace can be a long and painful process, and it takes time to build trust and build relationships. American politicians on both sides of the aisle helped to encourage and nurture these relationships in Northern Ireland over many decades. And we thank you all so much for that.

Today, Northern Ireland looks very different. We have a first minister and deputy first minister from different traditions working together for greater good. And in recent months, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly -- the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland -- came together to elect a new speaker and a new executive. Now, politicians in Northern Ireland from across the community are making decisions to improve the lives for all who live there. So, it's great to see that the Good Friday Agreement is working again.

Today, the U.S. is our partner in building a better future for all young people, and we sincerely thank you for it.

(Speaks Irish.) (No translation provided.)

Thank you again for the very warm welcome, for your very kind hospitality here this morning, and a very happy St. Patrick's Day to you all.

(Speaks Irish.) (No translation provided.) (Applause.)

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Ireland During a St. Patrick's Day Celebration Breakfast Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/370792

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