US & Canada

Enda Kenny meets US President Donald Trump in Oval Office

Enda Kenny gives Donald Trump a bowl of shamrock Image copyright PA
Image caption Donald Trump was given a bowl of shamrocks by Enda Kenny to mark St Patrick's Day

Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has held talks with US President Donald Trump in the White House.

"I love Ireland," said Mr Trump, adding that he would visit the Republic of Ireland during his term in office.

The DUP's Ian Paisley later invited Mr Trump to golf's 2019 British Open in Portrush, and said Mr Trump was keen.

After their meeting on Thursday, Mr Kenny made an impassioned plea for the 50,000 "undocumented" Irish who live in US without legal permission.

"This is what I said to your predecessor on a number of occasions - we would like this to be sorted," he told the president at a lunch event.

"It would remove a burden off so many people that they can stand out in the light and say: 'Now I am free to contribute to America, as I know I can.'"

Image copyright PA
Image caption Donald Trump told Enda Kenny at the Oval Office that he was his "new friend"

Noting the presence at the lunch of Northern Ireland politicians Mr Paisley and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, the taoiseach said: "We want to protect this peace process and I know you are going to work with us in that context also."

Image caption Mr Kenny and wife Fionnuala met Mike Pence and wife Karen at Washington's naval observatory

Mr Trump quoted from what he said was a proverb he had heard "many, many years ago": "Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue, but never forget to remember those that have stuck by you."

Portrush visit mooted

Mr Paisley invited Mr Trump to visit the Royal Portrush golf course when it hosts the Open championship in 2019.

"I'm delighted that he made note of that," Mr Paisley said.

"In the next public meeting he then in such glowing terms referred to the golf course, referred to Northern Ireland and has indicated very, very strongly - as have his staff - that if a visit takes place and they can factor this in, Portrush will be on the agenda.

"I think every effort's now going to be made that Northern Ireland is on the agenda for a state visit to the UK."

Bowl of shamrock

Later, Mr Kenny presented Mr Trump with a bowl of shamrocks for St Patrick's Day.

Mr Kenny had breakfast with US Vice President Mike Pence in Washington earlier in the day, in the company of their wives Fionnuala and Karen.

That followed his attendance of the Ireland Funds America gala dinner, which included a speech in which Mr Pence emphasised the commitment of America to the island of Ireland.

He said the US was pledged to securing the gains of the Northern Ireland peace process.

At the dinner, Mr Pence congratulated the people of Northern Ireland for turning out to vote in high numbers during the recent assembly election.

"The advance of peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland is one of the great success stories of the past 20 years," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Kenny and Mr Pence attended the Ireland Funds America gala dinner

"We thank those unsung heroes in Northern Ireland who, day-in and day-out, do the difficult and important work - strengthening communities, educating children, building that brighter future for the emerald isle and all who call it home."

Mr Pence also recalled his Irish grandfather Richard Michael Cawley, who emigrated to the US from County Sligo in 1923, and spoke with pride about his Irish heritage.

He added that he had thought about his grandfather during inauguration day in January.

"The truth is that whatever honours I will receive over the course of my service as vice president, to receive an honour in the name of the Irish people and my Irish heritage will count as chief among," he said.

"All that I am and all that I will ever be and all the service that I will ever make is owing to my Irish heritage."

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Mr Pence and Mr Kenny had shamrock pinned to their jackets for Saint Patrick's Day

Mr Kenny presented Mr Pence with a roll book from a County Sligo school that included the name of his grandfather.

He said Ireland "took special pride in the fact that, for the first time in the history of this great republic, one Irish American has succeeded another in the office of vice president".

The Irish prime minister added that immigration was the main focus of his trip to the US.

He said he was pursuing a process where Irish people living in the US illegally can "come in from the cold, and feel the warmth of this great country they have made their home".

A number of politicians from Northern Ireland are in America this week.

Mr Paisley, a DUP MP, who also attended the Ireland Funds America gala dinner, said that he expects little progress to be made during political talks at Stormont until the last minute.

He said he was hopeful the political parties could get "the show back on the road".

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