House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today welcomed Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny of Ireland, President Obama, and Vice President Biden to the Capitol for the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon. Following are Speaker Boehner’s remarks at the luncheon, as prepared for delivery:
“It’s truly humbling to host an event for a country known for its warm hospitality. That Irish greeting, ‘a hundred thousand welcomes,’ says it all.
“Prime Minister, it’s been a remarkable year for you in this regard. You welcomed the President and First Lady of the United States. You also received the Queen of England …. the first visit to Ireland by an English monarch in a century. And I’m told that down at Mahony’s Point in County Kerry, you gave a ‘lesson’ in reading putts to Rory McIlroy. Surely this explains how Rory became the #1 golfer in the world.
“Now, I’d like to think I know a thing or two about hospitality. I grew up working in my dad’s tavern, mopping floors and waiting tables … learned how to deal with every character who walked in the door. Trust me when I say these lessons are valuable to me when dealing with members of the United States House of Representatives.
“I also learned hospitality is about much more than welcoming someone into your home or your pub. It’s about welcoming them into your heart. Listening, finding a common bond, and giving more than we receive … that’s true hospitality. This is what the Irish have done so well, and for so long.
“It’s how a humble servant who arrived in Ireland poor in wealth but rich in spirit became its patron saint. In a vision, Irish spirits urged Patrick: ‘Come back to Erin, and walk among us.’ So he did, bringing with him the light of truth and the love of God. He traveled farm by farm, welcome to stay however long it took to deliver his teachings and build a church that would pass them on.
“Patrick was overwhelmed with Irish hospitality … he had to turn down many gifts. ‘If I have demonstrated any small thing,’ he wrote, ‘remember that it was all God’s gift.’
“This is why Americans greatly admire the Irish … you show the world how hospitality can be a source of pride and a force for good.
“This is a special year for our proud tradition. Here in the States, we are honoring the 100th birthday of Speaker Tip O’Neill, a great-great grandson of Cork.
“He co-founded the Friends of Ireland to support the Irish people when peace and unity were still elusive. Tip was so devoted to the Irish he once mused about becoming Ambassador to the Emerald Isle. To this, President Reagan responded, ‘Tip, the Irish aren't looking for Speakers, they're looking for listeners.’
“In a show of solidarity, Tip invited Irish prime minister Garret FitzGerald to address the United States Congress on March 15, 1984. Dr. FitzGerald was a man of great decency who spent most of his life in public service and worked tirelessly for peace. Sadly, he passed away last spring, a terrible loss for the Irish people and the world.
“Prime Minister, I’d like to present you with a picture from that historic day. May it serve as a reminder of our shared blessings and the promise of a hundred thousand more welcomes between our peoples."