Hosting Ireland’s prime minister, Biden celebrates his Irish roots (as he likes to do)

President Joe Biden meets with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, March 15, 2024 in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden meets with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, March 15, 2024 in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — With St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, President Joe Biden got to dwell Friday on one of his favorite subjects: Ireland.

Biden played host to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the White House and then the two attended a luncheon at the U.S. Capitol as the two countries celebrate a century of diplomatic relations. The president wore a green necktie for Ireland and the Oval Office was decorated with a bowl of shamrocks placed in front of the fireplace.

“May the hinge of our friendship never grow rusty,” Biden said to the Irish prime minister.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., hosted the president and Varadkar for the annual “Friends of Ireland Luncheon” at the Capitol. Johnson introduced the president as “America’s most famous Irishman.” Biden used the event to push for foreign aid to support Ukraine as it fights against Russia and Israel as well as provide humanitarian assistance to people in Gaza.

Varadkar used his remarks at the luncheon to thank the United States for its work to bring peace between Ireland and Northern Ireland — part of the United Kingdom — with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. But he turned to the war in Ukraine, as the House has been unable to pass military aid for the country, much to Biden’s frustration.

“Ukraine must not fall and together, we need to stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Varadkar said. “We look forward to working with America for the next 100 years.”

Biden is nearly as fond of his Irish heritage as he is of his home state of Delaware and his birthplace of Scranton, Pennsylvania. He loves to quote the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, among others. He has delivered Irish toasts before formal dinners. He has routinely brought up Ireland with leaders from other foreign countries. He spoke at a pub last year while visiting Ireland, reveling in the chance to be there.

As Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last year while Biden visited that country, “Joe, one thing that everybody has learned about you is that you’re a proud Irish American.”

His campaign planned to hold a virtual event on Friday to mobilize Irish American voters in a sign of the Democrats’ interests. The Census Bureau has said that more than 30 million people in the U.S. claim Irish ancestry, with the largest group being in the Chicago area.

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AP Writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

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