WASHINGTON—Ahead of St. Patrick's Day, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) hosted President Trump and the Taoiseach of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, for the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon, a tradition that dates back to 1983. Following are Speaker Ryan's remarks, as prepared for delivery:
I want to begin by welcoming the Taoiseach.
Leo, this is one of our most precious traditions. We come together to honor those known for the gifts of blarney and tall tales…which, in this town, means everybody.
As with most things Irish, this all began with a good scrap.
Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill were fierce political opponents. But their heritage was their bond.
When it came to Ireland, the only thing they’d argue about was who was more Irish. Reagan was so committed to winning he would say he was old enough to have actually met Saint Patrick.
With a name like Ryan, it is a personal privilege to carry on this tradition. Our family traces its roots back to County Kilkenny, to the town of Graiguenamanagh.
My wife and I took our kids over there just a few years back. The whole town came out. It was grand.
Well, my cousin William O’Shea drove there, and he couldn’t find a parking spot.
Finally, he got so frustrated that he prayed, ‘Lord, if you open a space up for me, I swear I’ll give up drinking whiskey, and I promise to go to church every Sunday.’
Suddenly, the clouds parted, and the sun shone on an empty space.
Without hesitation, he said, ‘Never mind Lord, I found one.’
Leo, for you, this is actually ‘welcome back’ to the Capitol. You were an intern here not too many years ago, and now you are the guest of honor. That is just incredible. I, too, started as an intern here.
Though this is not all that different from being an intern, right? Politicians go on and on, and you hope to get a free meal out of it.
The good news is, we have Guinness. Now, the Guinness does taste better in Ireland. But I realize this probably isn’t the right year to bring up trade issues…
America’s Irish ties really are as strong as ever. The Speaker is Irish. The Senate Majority Leader is Scots-Irish. And a Kennedy may run for president.
So many members of the president’s administration are Irish too.
Think about it: Pence, Kelly, Mulvaney…
All this really means is that our meetings start twice as late…last twice as long…and only half the decisions get made.
But on a serious note…
Before Notre Dame was known as the ‘Fighting Irish,’ that name belonged to the U.S. Army’s 69th Infantry Regiment.
They say Lincoln was so moved by the bravery of this brigade, that on a visit to the battlefield, he picked up a corner of the Irish flag, kissed it, and said, “God bless the Irish flag.”
God bless the Irish people, too.
The Irish people, in the spirit of the great St. Patrick, have always turned the darkness into light, and hardship into hope. They were our friends when we were friendless, defenders of our union when we were divided.
The Irish came here in search of a better life, and made this a better country. With their faith and their passion. A people of gentle hearts, and strong roots.
In these times, as we strive to secure peace and opportunity, the friendship of the Irish remains our anchor in the choppiest waters.
And so I would like to offer a toast:
May the winds of fortune sail you,
May you sail the gentlest sea.
May it always be the other guy or gal
Who says, ‘This drink is on me.’