The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by President Obama and the Taoiseach of Ireland Brian Cowen

Oval Office

11:26 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good morning, everybody.  First of all, I just want to congratulate this sound person right here for having the green earmuffs.  (Laughter.)  Now, I haven’t seen that before.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody. 

Before I talk a little bit about the strong and enduring bond between the American and Irish people, I just want to thank Congress for passing this morning the HIRE Act.  It is the first of what I hope will be a series of jobs packages that help to continue to put people back to work all across America. 

This bill will provide tax cuts to small businesses that are willing to begin hiring right now, putting people back to work.  It’s also going to provide significant tax breaks to businesses for investing in their business, and so, hopefully, at a time when we're starting to see an upswing in the economic growth, that will help sustain it.  And the bill also will continue to improve our ability to finance infrastructure projects all across the country.

I also want to say to the Republicans who voted for this bill that I appreciate their willingness to work with Democrats in a bipartisan fashion to get America moving again.  And as I said, I hope that on a series of future steps that we take to help small businesses get financing, to help improve our infrastructure around the country, to put people back to work, that we're going to see more progress on that front.

I want to thank the Taoiseach for coming here today.  Last year we had the opportunity to get to know each other and had a wonderful time during St. Patrick’s Day.  Thirty-six million Americans claim Irish ancestry -– I'm sure more do on St. Patrick’s Day.  And it’s a testament I think to how close our two countries are that America has been shaped culturally, politically, economically by the incredible contributions of Irish Americans.  Those bonds endure.  And in our meeting we reaffirmed how important it is for us to continue a strong partnership across a whole host of issues.

I thanked the Taoiseach for the assistance that they’ve provided on critical international issues.  We use the facilities in Ireland for transit for our military troops to Afghanistan.  The Irish police are providing training in Afghanistan.  As the Taoiseach indicated, the Irish government punches above its weight on a whole host of critical issues.  We're going to be working together to enhance food security around the world.  Even in these difficult times it’s important for us to make sure that we're tackling big issues like world hunger.

I congratulated the Taoiseach and his government for the extraordinary work that they engaged in, working with Gordon Brown and the British government, as well as Secretary Hillary Clinton, in reaffirming the progress that's been made in Northern Ireland and to get a ratification of continued devolution.  It’s a sign of his leadership, and we want to be as supportive as possible in advancing the Northern Ireland peace process.

We also discussed the economy.  And on both sides of the Atlantic we are seeing stabilization of the economy, but obviously we want more than just stabilization.  There are a lot of people out there that are still hurting, still out of work.  And so we will continue to coordinate in international fora as well as bilaterally to see how we can spur investment and private sector growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

So I just wanted to say how grateful we are for the friendship and the partnership between the United States government and the Irish government.  We wish you and everybody who is here a happy St. Patrick’s Day, and are looking forward to the reception that we'll have in the White House later this evening.

TAOISEACH COWEN:  Thank you very much, Mr. President.  And we are -- I and my delegation -- delighted to be able to join you here at the White House this morning on this wonderful St. Patrick’s Day morning.  And I think the sun shining outside and the light coming in I think typifies the excellent relationship that Ireland enjoys with the United States not only now, but as you say, over many generations.  And that contribution to America by Ireland is a continuing one, one that we have to find and give modern expression to all the time.

And certainly the level of cooperation and common cause we enjoy together in terms of the issues of today in the economy and how we can ensure that our economies recover as quickly as possible is something that’s very important to both our countries.  And certainly in Ireland’s context the resurgent  U.S. economy will be a strong indicator of our return to prosperity.  And we very much commend the very decisive steps that you have taken in terms of the economic issues and the banking issues, which have been so successful.

I think we are seeking to replicate ourselves in our own context as a recapitalization of our banking system and making sure that we have a banking system fit for purpose that will assist recovery and grow jobs again in the future, and provide investment and credit, working credit for businesses that are hard pressed in the very difficult trading environment.

In that context I’ve been delighted to head a delegation here to the United States and having visited Chicago, the West Coast, Silicon Valley and now Washington, D.C. over the last couple of days; 70 small- and medium-sized enterprises have been over with us, doing trade with American companies.  I’m glad to say that the two-way relationship in terms of investment is continuing.  Over 34 billion euros have been invested by Irish companies in the United States, employing 85,000 people directly.
 
And that, if you like, mirrors the very significant U.S. investment that’s taking place in Ireland, employing directly of the order of 90,000 people.  So that important two-way mutual benefit to this trade is very, very important, one I know that you’re equally cognizant about in terms of finding jobs for your people as we seek to provide jobs for ours.

On Northern Ireland, we are deeply grateful for the continuing and deep commitment shown by the Obama administration, by the President, himself, and by Secretary of State Clinton in recent months.  We’ve been very grateful for that continuing interest which has influenced an outcome that has been so positive.  As I said to the President, for a place that has been known for its disagreements, a 98-17 vote was a very good vote to get.  I’m sure he’s looking forward to a good outcome in what he’s doing during the course of this week.

We decided to come on a quiet week -- we knew there wasn’t much going on.  (Laughter.)  But in that context, it reinforces the fact that we are so, so grateful that the President gives so much of his time -- both himself as President, his administration, and, indeed, the people on the Hill from both parties are very welcoming of us.  And we deeply appreciate that, as both a recognition of the contribution of Ireland thus far to America, but also the continuing important relationship we enjoy.

So on all these fronts, again, it’s a great pleasure to meet with the leader of the free world.  We are deeply grateful for his sense of mission not only in terms of how America is progressing, but America’s position in the world.  And we will always be supportive of the very progressive stands and positions that President Obama has taken -- not only in terms of the economic issues, but on development issues.  We will have a co-chairing by Secretary Clinton and Micheál Martin, our foreign minister, at the U.N. Conference on Hunger and Food Security.  And these are another indication of the values we share and our ability to cooperate and provide leadership positions is one that we’ve very grateful and privileged to enjoy with you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you. 

Thank you, everybody.

Q    -- that Representative Kucinich will vote for the health care bill --

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  That's a good sign.

Q    What did you tell him?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I told him thank you.

Q    Will you be going to Ireland, Mr. President?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I would love to be going to Ireland.

END
11:35 A.M. EDT

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