Washington, DC - Vice President Pence at a Breakfast with Prime Minister Varadkar of Ireland:
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, top of the morning. (Laughter.) And welcome to the official residence of the Vice President of the United States. This is an extraordinary tradition, and it is a great, great honor, for our third time, as a family in this historic residence to welcome the Taoiseach of Ireland, Leo Varadkar back to Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
There’s a distinguished group of guests here, and, Mr. Taoiseach, I thank you for continuing what’s become a tenured tradition of beginning your visit to our nation’s capital as St. Patrick’s Day approaches this coming Sunday here at the Vice President’s Residence. And we are so honored to be able to extend the hospitality of this home to you.
But we’re also really honored to be joined by your partner, Dr. Matthew Barrett. He does great work at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. And, Matt, it’s an honor to have you here with us as well. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you.
If you’re enjoying the hospitality this morning, the credit goes to the Second Lady of the United States, who unfortunately couldn’t be with us today because she’s representing our country at the International Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi. But she asked my Irish sister, Annie Poynter, to represent her here today. So, Annie, thank you so much for coming today and for representing our family. (Applause.)
But to the Taoiseach, I would say you’ve got a great group of Americans here, and we want to welcome them all. To Ambassador and Mrs. Mulhall, thank you for your presence. To Congressman Fitzpatrick, Congressman Byrne, great members of the Congress of the United States — where you will be a little bit later today for the annual luncheon — join me in thanking these distinguished members of Congress who are with us today. (Applause.)
These are great Irish Americans, and there is one more member of Congress who takes great pride in his Irish American heritage. He’s here with his wife, Denise. Congressman Greg Pence is with us as well. (Applause.)
But to Carl Anderson, to Tom Donohue, and to my friend of many years, Father Jenkins — who is President of the University of Notre Dame — thank you all for being here this morning. (Applause.)
This is a beautiful morning, and it put my mind to my very first trip to Ireland. Right after my grandfather — who emigrated from Ireland in 1923 — right after he passed away, we had actually planned to go to Ireland together. And it was June, and we traveled all around to all the communities where my great-grandparents had grown up, where my grandfather had grown up in Tubercurry and in Doonbeg.
But I have to be honest with you: It was a little rainy that June — (laughter) — and I know that’s rare in Ireland. (Laughter.) A little rainy. A little cold. And — but I’ll never forget, one Sunday morning we were in Galway, the sun came out, the temperature rose to 70 degrees, and I went to a pub later that day and I’ll never forget, a fellow behind the bar looked at me and he said, “It’s a glorious day.” He said, “Summer came on a Sunday this year.” (Laughter.)
And I thank — I want to thank the Taoiseach for bringing this glorious weather with us today to begin this great St. Patrick’s Day weekend on this beautiful morning.
And I know President Trump is very much looking forward to welcoming you back to the White House today for what we know will be substantive conversations. I spoke to the President this morning and he wanted me to extend his warmest greetings to you. The President said on your last visit, Ireland is a great country and the relationship is outstanding. And with your leadership, his leadership, the relationship has only grown more strong.
And today is actually a perfect time to dwell on that relationship and everything that the Irish have done for America. Thirty-two million Americans trace their heritage back to the Emerald Island. Me included.
The Irish people’s contributions to the American story stretch all the way back to the Revolutionary War and long before. The contribution of Irish Americans to the life of this nation extends to our armed forces, to science, to sports, to business. And it’s incalculable to think of the incredible contribution that Irish Americans have made and continue to make to this great nation.
The Irish have given so much to America. And today, the partnership between our two countries, as the Taoiseach knows, has never been stronger. When it comes to prosperity, more than 700 U.S. companies employ 150,000 people in Ireland. And our two countries trade nearly $130 billion in goods and services every year. And I want to assure the Taoiseach that this administration is committed to growing these economic ties and making them stronger than ever before.
The United States also stands with the Irish Republic as the United Kingdom continues to work through the issues of Brexit. And we look forward to the day that we can even begin talks about expanded trade and a new trade agreement to grow our two economies and prosper both of our peoples.
So it’s an honor to be with you today. Thank you for coming here and honoring us with your presence. But thank you also for the invitation to make an official visit to Ireland. You did say the one condition was that I had to bring my mother. (Laughter.) And I’m happy to report to Taoiseach Varadkar that I have spoken to Mom — (laughter) — first-generation Irish American mother of mine, and she has now confirmed that she will travel with us — (laughter) — to Ireland and we are making plans to return to my grandfather’s homestead as we speak. So we’re looking very much forward. (Applause.)
You know, I’ll close by way of introduction by saying it really is a joy to share this moment with you for the second year in a row.
And people often ask me what I thought about on Inauguration Day when I raised my right hand. And to be honest with you, I was surrounded by my family, and I felt a great sense of humility about the opportunity that we’d been given to serve in this capacity in our nation. But as I looked out at that vast throng of Americans and took that oath, I thought about my grandfather. I thought about April 11, 1923, when a young man came through Ellis Island, traveled to Chicago, where Matt lives, and built a future.
And he was proud to be an American, and he was proud of his American family, but I can still hear that Irish brogue in my heart — the way my grandfather used to speak when he talked about the old country, when he talked about his life across the pond.
And to Taoiseach Varadkar, I would tell you that I’ve inherited a lot from my grandfather and I hope all of his best qualities. But I want to assure you, his love for the Irish people, his love for his Irish heritage is bone-marrow deep for me and for my family. And so it is such a great honor to be able to begin this celebration in our nation’s capital with you here at the Vice President’s Residence.
With that being said, would you all join me in welcoming the Taoiseach of the Irish Republic, Leo Varadkar, to the home of the Vice President of the United States.