2:07 P.M. IST
TAOISEACH VARADKAR: So thank you everyone and good afternoon. Mr. Vice President, I just want to say what an honor it’s been to welcome you and your family here to Ireland, at the home of your forbearers. I was especially happy to meet with Karen again and also to meet with your mother Nancy, who is truly an extraordinary woman and a woman whose own father left these shores back in 1923 to find a new life in the United States.
And today we were able to show you the service records of your grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, who served with distinction in the Irish Defence Forces during our civil war.
Your family’s connections to Ireland are very real and also very recent — very much in living memory. But the story of your grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, is not a unique one. It’s an example of the ties of history, kinship, and friendship which link our two countries together — a relationship that transforms the Atlantic from being an ocean of tears into a gateway of hope and opportunity.
Our two countries are united today in our common interests and our shared heritage, and our deep, abiding friendship. Ireland and the U.S. are partners. And in years to come, we want to continue to work together: trading and investing and creating jobs in each other’s countries, something that very much goes both ways; facilitating students and also tourists to visit; and cooperating on issues like security, in particular cybersecurity, which we talked about today.
So the Vice President and I had a marvelous meeting earlier on, where we discussed how we can deepen U.S. and Ireland’s bilateral relationship. And we also discussed how the United States helped to make peace possible on this island, and the vital role that it played in protecting the Good Friday Agreement for 20 years. And indeed, I recalled that, before that, the role that President Reagan played in encouraging Ms. Thatcher to sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement back in the 1980s.
So, Mr. Vice President, your visit to Ireland comes at a critical time in our history, with Brexit less than two months away. And in so many ways, the UK and Ireland are intertwined, so the UK’s decision, which we respect — but its decision to travel a different course to ours risks being deeply disruptive, especially for the people of Northern Ireland, where most people voted to stay in Europe.
The divergence between the UK and the European Union means that the return of a hard border on our island is a very real risk. And I know that you understand the impact that a hard border could have on this island — barriers to the free movement of people and frictionless trade, barriers to North-South cooperation, and the risk that the Good Friday Agreement and the peace could unravel.
And that’s why we, as a government, have to stand our ground on the withdrawal agreement — an agreement which was carefully negotiated over two years with the British government and overcomes these risks.
And so, Mr. Vice President, all I ask is that you bring that message back to Washington with you. This isn’t a problem of our making. It is one we want to solve to an orderly Brexit and a withdrawal agreement that guarantees that there’ll be no hard border on this island.
So, once again, thank you for your visit. Thank you for coming here with your family. And I really hope the rest of your visit to Europe is a resounding success.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Well, thank you, Taoiseach Varadkar, for those very kind words and most especially for the warm hospitality that you and Matt have shown to my wife Karen, my mother, and my sister and me today.
It’s an honor to be here, as the grandson of an Irish immigrant, on my first visit to Ireland as Vice President of the United States.
And as I begin, allow me to bring greetings from a friend of yours and a great friend of the Irish people, as someone who, along with you, has worked to strengthen the bonds between our people in ways that are stronger now than ever before. I bring you the greetings of the President of the United States, President Donald Trump.
And, Taoiseach, while I’m honored to be here, you can well understand that our hearts are home with all the families and communities in the path of Hurricane Dorian, both in the United States as well as our neighbors in the Bahamas.
I’m truly grateful for your expressions of concern, and the prayers and support of people across Ireland, as our nation continues to prepare to confront this advancing storm.
I’m pleased to report that the President has directed the full resources of the federal government to prepare for response and recovery. And we continue to urge all of those in the path of Hurricane Dorian to heed local emergency managers and take such precautions and preparations as are necessary to stay safe.
Taoiseach Varadkar, President Trump said with you in March that, “The faith, perseverance, and spirit of Irish Americans across our country is indelibly woven into the tapestry of the American story.” And I can personally attest to that.
Six months ago, our family had the great pleasure of hosting you and Matt at the Vice President’s Residence to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It was the second year in a row that you had given us that honor.
And I couldn’t have been more grateful on that day when you invited us to come to the Emerald Isle. But I will say, for the benefit of the press, the Taoiseach’s invitation came with strings attached. He told me we would be welcome only if we brought my mother, Nancy — a first-generation Irish-American — along. And I want to thank you for that kind invitation, as well.
I’m happy to report my mother is with us today, and she was every bit as charming as yours. My sister, Annie, came along to help us as well. And all of us couldn’t be more delighted. It was also a delight to meet your family, to meet your father, Dr. Varadkar and your mother. Very special people.
I saw firsthand, over our lunch, that we have both been blessed in many ways, especially that we had both been blessed with Irish mothers. (Laughter.)
So, Taoiseach, from our small family to yours, thank you. Thank you for your kindness.
Our family cherishes our Irish heritage. As the Taoiseach said, my grandfather came to America in 1923 from these shores. He grew up in Tubbercurry, in County Sligo. My grandmother’s parents grew up near Doonbeg, in County Clare.
I first came to Ireland the year my grandfather passed in 1981. I saw the two-room house he grew up in. I spent weeks cutting turf in the peat bogs. I learned how to pour a proper pint working at Morrissey’s pub in Doonbeg. During that month and a half that I was here, it was a formative experience in my life. I met people with broad smiles and strong opinions. And I came to realize that I carry Ireland with me wherever I go — just like more than 30 million Americans who trace their heritage to the Emerald Isle.
And Irish Americans have enriched our nation since its earliest days, like a Boston bookseller born to Irish parents, Henry Knox, who served as one of George Washington’s most trusted generals; or like Thomas Francis Meagher who led the Irish Brigade in the Civil War, rose to the rank of Brigadier General, and famously designed the Irish tricolor that flies over the Republic of Ireland to this day.
Irish Americans have made extraordinary contributions to the life of our nation, whether it be to the armed forces, to the arts, in business, in education, and in public life.
And not surprisingly, since the beginning of our republic, there has been a remarkable bond between America and Ireland. And today, Taoiseach, thanks to your leadership and the leadership of President Donald Trump, the relationship between the United States and Ireland has never been stronger.
Under President Trump’s leadership, I’m proud to report that the American economy is booming. We’ve created more than 6 million new jobs. Our unemployment rate is at a 50-year low. Our stock market is soaring. And wages are rising at the fastest rate in nearly a decade.
And under your leadership, Ireland’s economy is growing and expanding as well. In fact, I’m proud to report, at $385 billion, Ireland is the fourth fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment in the United States. That’s evidence of an expanding economy here in Ireland, and the American people are grateful for the investments and the confidence.
You’ll be glad to know U.S. affiliates of majority Irish-owned firms support 263,000 jobs. They spend $3.7 billion on innovative research and development, and they help to export [expand] U.S. exports by $8 billion a year. But similar to that, over 700 U.S.-owned firms currently operating in Ireland at a 442-billion-dollar-a-year rate, U.S. investment in the Emerald Isle, I’m told, supports more than 165,000 jobs for Irish citizens. It is a dynamic economic relationship between the United States and Ireland. And it’s only growing stronger by the day.
I’m pleased, Taoiseach, that with the partnership that you have strengthened with the United States and our President, that we’re also strengthening our security ties. Shannon International Airport is an important transportation hub for United States armed forces traveling in support of missions around the world. And we are grateful for that Irish hospitality for our troops as they deploy and as they come home.
And Ireland is becoming an increasingly important security partner. Now, Taoiseach, you have indicated your intention, as we discussed, to double Ireland’s number of overseas-deployed forces by 2025 and are also working with us to address hybrid threats, from counterterrorism to, of course, cyber defense.
And as we discussed, our two nations are already hard at work on several fronts to strengthen our economic and security ties.
Our two nations have pledged greater cooperation in the fight against terrorism, strengthening cooperation between the European Union and NATO.
And also, we continue to seek ways to preserve the integrity of our information networks. And on that count, I was grateful for our discussion today.
As the United States continues our negotiations with China for a free and fair reciprocal trade deal, as you and I discussed today, the United States urges Ireland and all our allies in Europe to reject equipment that could compromise the integrity of our shared telecom infrastructure.
It is well known that Chinese law requires Chinese telecom companies to provide Beijing’s vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their network. And we believe, in the United States, that there’s no place for untrusted vendors anywhere in our secure 5G supply chain. And we’re working with telecom companies across the world to develop 5G alternatives to Huawei. And we hope, Taoiseach Varadkar, to have the opportunity to work with the Republic of Ireland in this endeavor as well.
And on a subject much on our minds and much a subject of discussion today, let me be clear: The United States supports the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in Brexit, but we also recognize the unique challenges on your northern border. And I can assure you we will continue to encourage the United Kingdom and Ireland to ensure that any Brexit deal respects the Good Friday Agreement.
But as the deadline for Brexit approaches, we urge Ireland and the European Union, as well, to negotiate in good faith with Prime Minister Johnson and work to reach an agreement that respects the United Kingdom’s sovereignty and minimizes disruption to commerce. And the United States will look to play whatever helpful role we can play among our friends in achieving that objective.
As President Trump announced last week, when Brexit is complete, the United States will have a new free trade agreement with the United Kingdom. And so too we hope to have your support as we continue to negotiate a new trade deal with the European Union. The United States is anxious to negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union that will lower trade barriers and allow our transatlantic economies to prosper more than ever before.
And in the months ahead, Taoiseach, I promise you that, as you said, we will continue to look for ways to renew our people-to-people ties, which are the real ties that bind our two countries. Increased cultural and educational exchanges will ensure the bonds of Irish and American friendship far into the future.
Because beyond our economic and security ties, the American people share something else with the Irish people: its history, its shared character, and its common values.
America and Ireland are prospering because America and Ireland are bound together by the connections of family and history but also a deep commitment to individual liberty and freedom. And on that foundation, I know the best days for America and for Ireland lie ahead.
So, Taoiseach, I thank you again for your warm hospitality to me and my family. I know I speak on behalf of President Trump when I say how grateful we are for your engagement in ways that truly strengthened the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the United States of America.
And so let me close simply with a prayer I learned from my grandfather so many years ago. To you, Taoiseach, and all of the good people of Ireland, may the road rise to meet you, may the wind be at your back, may the rain fall softly on your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
God bless you all. God bless Ireland. And God bless America. (Applause).
2:22 P.M. IST