WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) welcomed Prime Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland and members of the Irish government to the U.S. Capitol today. After meeting in Speaker Boehner’s ceremonial office, the two leaders received President Obama and proceeded to the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon.
At the luncheon, the invocation and benediction were delivered by Rev. William Byrne, pastor of St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill. Additionally, Anthony Kearns, a founding member of The Irish Tenors, performed three songs: “O’ America,” “Phil the Fluther,” and “The Star of the County Down.”
Following are Speaker Boehner’s remarks during the luncheon, as prepared for delivery:
“Judging by the weather, the luck of the Irish is with us. And judging by the crowd, the noise of the Irish is with us as well.
“Yes, I’d say this is the loudest gathering of Irishmen in Washington since the last time Joe Biden dined alone. It’s like I’m always telling the president: you only tease the ones you love.
“In any case, this is a day for a hundred thousand welcomes: welcoming you to our Capitol, welcoming your continued friendship, and welcoming all the contributions the Irish have made in America. Out of our 44 presidents, at least 22 can trace their roots to Ireland. Well, 23 if you count Daniel Day Lewis…
“Even as we gather to honor St. Patrick, our thoughts are on another celebration, in Rome. I know we all pray that the blessings of Ireland’s patron saint are with our new Holy Father.
“The legend goes that Patrick drove out the snakes, but it’s really what he brought to Ireland that we celebrate. That, of course, is the name and word of God.
“When Patrick defied the king and lit the Easter fire, he stoked embers of wonder and purpose in the hearts of the Irish, gifts that they have spread through the world over and over.
“It’s what led an American newspaper to describe the ‘several sorts of power working at the fabric of this Republic: waterpower, steam power, horsepower, and Irish power.’ It's why the great general, Douglas MacArthur, said, ‘By God, it takes the Irish when you want a hard thing done.’ And it’s how two fierce political opponents, Reagan and O’Neill, teamed up to become the first two friends in this tradition.
“As this is our pride and joy, let it be our cause to keep that flame lit … to break the same bread and tread the same path to a future of peace and prosperity.
“For as it is written in the Old Testament:
‘Where thou go, I will go; And where thou lodge, I will lodge; Thy people shall be my people, And thy God my God.’
“So please join me now in a toast. To old stories, old land, and old friends: may you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.”