Marking St. Patrick's Day in Washington, President Joe Biden began a day of festivities by welcoming Ireland's prime minister to the White House.
Biden, donning a shamrock-green tie in homage to his Irish roots, held a bilateral meeting with Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office — a return of a tradition put on hold for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We've been great friends," Biden said. "You've been a great friend to the United States, and Ireland and the United States share great friendship and long, long traditions."
Varadkar, also known as the taoiseach, thanked Biden for the invitation and for his support leading up to the Windsor Framework, which was the proposed post-Brexit legal agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
The two leaders also discussed standing together to support Ukraine amid Russia's ongoing invasion.
"It means a great deal, speaking out against Russian aggression, and our deepening economic ties," Biden said. "We have a lot to talk about."
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Ireland’s Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar meets with U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, March 17, 2023.Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters
However, Biden and Varadkar did not hold a joint news conference following their meeting. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, when asked Thursday by ABC News' Karen Travers why one wasn't planned, said it's something done "in coordination" with the visiting head of state.
After their Oval Office meeting, Biden and Varadkar went to Capitol Hill for a Friends of Ireland luncheon hosted by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
McCarthy and Biden both discussed Irish heritage bringing lawmakers together on different issues.
"There's no reason why we can't find common ground. There's no reason why we can't hope to change this, this direction of the extremes that both our parties are pushing," Biden said. "I think it's important … It's the strength of our partnership, if we work at it. And simply put, I think it's the Irish of it."
President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attend the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon on St. Patrick’s Day at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, March 17, 2023.Andrew Caballero-reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
Biden later hosted Varadkar for a Shamrock presentation and reception at the White House, which had its fountain dyed green. The event featured a performance by singer-songwriter Niall Horan of One Direction fame.
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The celebrations come ahead of Biden's expected trip to Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The accord, signed in April 1998, helped bring an end to decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.
A green fountain is seen on the south lawn in honor of St. Patricks Day at the White House, March 17, 2023.Andrew Caballero-reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
Varadkar said he was looking forward to Biden's visit, as the president said earlier this week it was intention to travel to Ireland for the occasion.
"I promise you that we're going to roll out the red carpet and it's going to be a visit like no other," he told Biden. "Everyone's excited about it already."
Biden replied, "I look forward to that," but didn't say exactly when he would make the trip.
Varadkar began the day at Vice President Kamala Harris' residence for breakfast with her and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
There, Varadkar, Ireland's first openly gay head of government, praised the U.S. for its leadership on gay rights.
"From Stonewall to Sacramento to San Francisco, America has led the way when it comes to LGBT equality. I don't think I would be here today were it not for what America did," he said, thanking Harris specifically for her work on marriage equality.