Speaker Ryan Hosts Annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon | Speaker.gov

Today, Speaker Ryan hosted President Trump and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny at his second Friends of Ireland luncheon, a tradition dating back to 1983 that signifies America’s bipartisan commitment to peace and security in Ireland. Below are Speaker Ryan’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Taoiseach and Mrs. Kenny, friends of Ireland, relatives of Ireland: I want to wish all of you – Céad míle fáilte. How was that? Good, good. Can’t let down the folks back in Graigudenamanag.

“This is the time of year when we celebrate the spirit and splendor of a small island tucked in the North Atlantic.  A small island generous enough to share the Glorious St. Patrick, and of course, the Guinness.

“Days like this take me back to my family’s visits to Ireland. Everyone is just so easygoing there. And when your name is Paul Ryan, you can really blend in. Not always though. One time I was in a pub, talking to this fellow. I tell him my name, and he says, ‘oh, Paul Ryan…you’re the hurler from Ballyboden!’ I said, ‘No, no…the musician from Wicklow.’

“Those are both real guys, by the way. The Irish are so passionate about their music and their sports too. There is actually a story they tell in Kilkenny about a family out to dinner. The father calls the waiter over and says, ‘Sorry lad, my son spilled the water.’ The waiter says, ‘No problem sir, I’ll get you a new one.’ The father grabs the waiter’s arm and says, ‘OK…but make sure this one likes hurling.’ My family is from Kilkenny, so I had to go with a hurling joke.

“It’s funny though. I asked my staff for a list of jokes to choose from for this lunch. I really did. And so I get the list, and at the top it says, ‘Number one. Your Irish accent.’ What can I say? Americans are always trying to endear ourselves to the Irish. Think about it. We went from a president who plays a lot of golf, to a president who owns a lot of golf courses. That’s about the closest thing to royalty in Ireland. 

“To my friend, an Taoiseach, on behalf of the Congress, I want to thank you for your steadfast leadership. When I think about all the work you did to set up a government . . . to turn your economy around . . . all the endless demands . . . the long nights and early mornings…the backbiting from the backbenches. And you’ve made it in this job, how long? Six years? Maybe you do have the ‘luck of the Irish’. 

“But we are so glad you made it here safely despite the snow. It reminds me of a story about my great-great-grandfather James Ryan. Like so many, he came over here after the potatoes stopped growing. He worked the rails until he made it to the outskirts of Janesville, Wisconsin. This was in the middle of summer. He looked around and said, 'this looks just like Ireland.' Then came winter . . . And he said ‘oh, crap.’ 

“But the closest point from here to Ireland’s shores is at Loop Head, where there is a very old lighthouse. In the 20s and 30s, the light was kept by another James. James McGinley.  He was among the first in his family to get an education and go beyond the farm. He played the fiddle. He enjoyed stout after Mass. He loved to fish. Today his grandson is the 13th prime minister of Ireland. 

“Ireland may be a small island, but look at all she has given us. Her light floods the world. To America, she is as General Washington himself said, ‘friend of my country in my country’s most friendless day.’ 

“In that spirit, I would like to offer a toast. To what our forefathers have started, and our children will continue. May the light always shine upon them. Slainte. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, it is my privilege to introduce a great leader and a great friend of the Irish people, the President of the United States.”