Irish premier hails centuries old friendship between Ireland and the US

By Cate McCurry, Press Association
Leo Varadkar was speaking at an event at Dublin Castle, attended by the US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Leo Varadkar has hailed the country’s continuing relationship with “our friend” the US.

The Irish Premier was speaking as he hosted a reception at Dublin Castle attended by the United States House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Also attending were TDs, Senators, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster.

The Taoiseach said people in US helped to bring peace to Ireland and helped the country take its place “among nations of the world”.

“When courageous men and women walked the path of peace they did so knowing the US was alongside them,” he said.

“The Good Friday Agreement was made possible by Americans of good faith and they helped pave the way for prosperity and gave young people their own future.”

Mr Varadkar added that Ireland will do everything the country can to avoid a hard border.

He added: “Last week in Brussels we agreed to give the UK more time to ratify the Agreement and when that is done we look forward to securing a partnership with the UK. We want it to be as close as it can possibly be.

“I know you (US) will be there as you always have in the past to help us build a better future.

“Irish men and women have helped make America great. Ireland has become a home from home for so many Americans.

“We want Ireland to act as a political and economic bridge between the EU and the US. Given our shared language and history, it means the US and the EU can better relate to each other on a political level.”

Mr Varadkar added: “Today we are working to preserve all of that which has been achieved in the past and no matter what happens with Brexit, we will do everything we can to prevent the return of a hard border.

“In this we are backed by countries across the EU and indeed our friends in the United States.

“We all want free movement of people North and South and free trade and enterprise, North and South, to continue into the future and forever.”

He also said he hoped it would be possible to find a solution for the thousands of undocumented Irish living in the US and those who are in a similar position who come from other countries.

“Their welfare continues to be a real concern and priority for us,” he added.

“We know the politics of migration is particularly contentious in your country, as it is in so many parts in the world, but we also know the capacity and the power of democracy and politics to bring about great change.”

Earlier on Wednesday Ms Pelosi addressed the Irish parliament on the second day of her four day visit to Ireland.

Her delegation is set to travel to Northern Ireland on Thursday.

Speaking at Dublin Castle, Ms Pelosi said: “We all strive to make the future better for the next generation.

“The connection between the United States and Ireland is very precious to us.

“We see the Brexit conversation as an aberration and we see a brilliant future ahead working together.”

She presented Mr Varadkar with a bespoke bowl printed with doves and added: “It’s all about peace and that is what we are striving for.”