Biden welcomes Irish prime minister for St. Patrick's Day festivities

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(WASHINGTON) — 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.”

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 luncheon hosted by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy with the Friends of Ireland.

Biden will later host Varadkar for a Shamrock presentation and reception at the White House featuring singer-songwriter Niall Horan of One Direction fame.

The celebrations, which included the White House fountain being dyed green, 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.

Varadkar said he was looking forward to Biden’s visit, as the president said earlier this week it was his 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.

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