Irish PM Kenny Explains Why 'Ireland Came to America'

Craig Bannister
By Craig Bannister | March 17, 2017 | 12:28 PM EDT

White House St. Patrick's Day reception

At a White House St. Patrick’s Day reception, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny invoked the sentiments of Irish-American President John F. Kennedy to explain why “Ireland came to America.”

On Thursday, Kenny and President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence each commemorated St. Patrick’s Day in a ceremony in the East Room.

During his remarks, Kenny paid tribute to the Irish immigrants who have come to America and forged a strong bond between the two nations that still exists today:

“Ireland came to America because, deprived of liberty, deprived of opportunity, of safety, of even food itself, the Irish believed, four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp, we were the “wretched refuse on the teeming shore.”  We believed in the shelter of America, and the compassion of America, and the opportunity of America.  We came, and we became Americans.

“We lived the words of John F. Kennedy long before we heard them:  We asked not what America could do for us, but what we could do for America.  And we still do.  We want to give, and not to take.  We know the Irish have built the bridges and the roads, protected the public as firefighters and police officers.  We've cared for the sick in hospitals, entertained as poets, as singers and writers, as politicians, as judges and legislators.  And as entrepreneurs, they provided hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans, including most recently, in exciting technology companies.

“Two-way trade in goods is approaching $100 billion a year at the moment.  Irish firms employ 100,000 people across 50 states in the U.S.  And we want to build on this for the future.

“Mr. President, as a small island on the edge of Europe, a natural bridge between the United States and Europe, and as a committed member of the European Union and a close friend of the United States, we will work hard with you, Mr. President, and with your administration in pursuit of strong and open relations between the United States and the European Union, including the strong trade relationships for the mutual benefit of millions of people either side of the Atlantic.”