From: Memoli, Michael
Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 11:11 AM
To: Goodman, Meghan K. EOP/OVP
Subject: VP Pool Report: Breakfast for Taoiseach
VP hosted Taoiseach Enda Kenny for breakfast at his official residence at the Naval Observatory as part of the Irish PM's annual St. Patrick's Day(ish) visit to Washington.
Pool was present for welcoming remarks from the VP and Kenny, and prayer from Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former DC archbishop.
There was an audience of about 50 in small dining room on the main floor of the residence. Guests included current and potential future members of Congress, and some past and present administration officials. An incomplete list is at the end of the report. They were seated at 5 round tables of 10 adorned with green tablecloths and green flowers. Breakfast was yet to be served
As one would expect at such a gathering there was a mix of humor and seriousness in both leader’s remarks, with references to the bonds between the two nations, the rather unsettled political situations in both, and to the 100th anniversary commemorations of the so-called Easter Rising. Each man’s remarks lasted about 10 minutes.
The VP, in a navy suit and blue tie speckled with shamrocks, opened his by thanking Kenny and his wife Fionnuala for coming back.
“You know that things are working alright when you invite friends to your home and they actually come back a second time. That doesn’t always happen to us,” he joked. “And it clearly doesn’t happen with Markey,” he added, razzing the Massachusetts senator who was present.
VP noted this was the final St. Patrick’s Day breakfast he’ll host, calling it “one of the real privileges” of his eight years. “Other than having Air Force Two.” He said he hoped his successor continued the tradition.
VP said that depending on one’s perspective Ireland was about to mark the anniversary or the celebration of the Easter Rising, something he learned about “at the knee of my grandfather Ambrose Finnegan,” who he said was worried that “Joey” reminded him of Michael Collins.
Saying he’s traveled “almost as much as John Kerry” as VP – passing the million-mile mark in his years – one of the “great, great advantages” is the refueling stop he makes at the Shannon Airport. So this year for his final breakfast he invited Rose Hynes, who “runs the airport,” to join him and “return the hospitality.” He thanked her for her kindness during his time there, noting she even buys ice cream to have for him at the stops.
VP talked about the “emotional commitment” of many Americans to Ireland and the shared history. Among all the lessons he’s learned in life, VP said that so much of what it means to be Irish is about the value system, quoting his mother in saying to be Irish “is about family, faith, but most of all it’s about courage.”
“That’s one of the things I think we Irish do. It gets us in trouble sometimes. But we love with abandon. Whether it’s a cause or a person or a circumstance.”
It may not surprise you that at this point VP quoted an Irish poet (not because he’s Irish, but because they’re the best poets) – Yeats – “all is changed – changed utterly.” That is true today as much as it was in 1916, VP said, saying the world was at an inflection point.
VP said we’ll get through that change because of what we inherited from Irish ancestors – “this notion of to be Irish is to be able to dream. It’s about possibilities.”
“Every one of us in this room, in this country raised by Irish families were taught I think without exception that, just get up. If you get knocked down – it’s not whether you get knocked down it’s how quickly you get up. And when you get up, keep moving. Just keep moving.”
VP turned to Kenny, saying he’s the most popular guy in his country but still lost seats in the most recent election. And despite that, he said Kenny assured him: “This is going to work out.”
And in just a hint toward the domestic political situation VP added that the values of hard work, family, pride, faith, and sense of community are “something we owe Ireland, we owe our Irish ancestors. It’s the single defining difference about, I think, who we are as Americans.
“And by the way – you can’t define an American based on faith, on ethnicity, on race. You can’t do it.”
Closing, the VP said he was delighted Kenny was here, as was POTUS and the Congress.
“I can assure you: if you ran in America, you would get 80% of the vote.”
Kenny, also in a navy suit with solid green tie, then made some remarks. He thanked VP for “giving his heart in so many ways to the causes that we have followed” in Ireland. He specifically cited the VP’s message after the country’s referendum on marriage equality – one “of empathy and encouragement, was deeply felt by so many people.”
Kenny also offered his sympathies to VP on the loss of his son, Beau. “If you have the chance to go to Ireland, as I know you wanted to go with Beau, I’m sure his spirit will walk with you.”
Kenny turned to his nation’s politics. Ireland boasted the fastest growing economy in Europe for the second year in a row. While across Europe “you have situations arising from elections where anti-austerity and populism tend to run from responsibility, not to have the courage to be decisive and make decisions in the interests of country and of people.” But Ireland “has been unaffected by that.”
“My belief is in our country, over the next short period ahead, we will be able to put together a stable government that will last the time, and do the business in the interests of the country.”
He called the centennial of the Easter Rising “a seminal point in Ireland’s history,” marking a journey toward political and economic independence “which did not come without its difficulties.” He said he wanted the commemoration to be inclusive, sensitive, and take into account “issues north and south, issues of religion,” and those who fought with the British army. He referred to a memorial wall similar to the Vietnam Memorial here that would commemorate all – “innocents, children, civilians, those who fought for the rebellion, those who fought against.”
Kenny thanked VP for his interest in Northern Ireland, which “is not without its difficulties. Peace is always fragile.” He noted George Mitchell recently being Grand Marshall in a St. Patrick’s Day parade there, and Gary Hart’s role as an envoy.
Kenny quoted President Kennedy in saying that change “is the law of life. He who dwells in the past or indeed the present will surely miss the future.” There are difficulties in the U.S. and Ireland, but also a “global phenomenon here that needs to be understood in the sense of our interdependence, our interconnectedness and our common humanity.”
Kenny closed by saying he hoped VP had a chance to come to Ireland. “You’d be more than welcome. Obviously we owe you a debt of gratitude for your generosity, for the time you’ve given us, for the interest that you’ve shown in Irish events on so many occasions. We’re proud of your contribution. We’re proud to know that your heart is with us all the way.”
Cardinal McCarrick then offered a blessing after some initial remarks in which he said he would miss doing this each year. “We don’t know who is coming next year. I hope he’s an American.” Perhaps he meant “Irish-American,” or perhaps not. But the crowd laughed nonetheless.
McCarrick noted that St. Patrick’s Day falls this year during the time of passion in Lent. “It really has been a time of passion and pain for many of us in America,” he said. McCarrick prayed for the vice president and his family, including Beau. He prayed for the nation at a season “of too much hatred, too much selfishness, too much jealousy.” He also played for Ireland and Europe at its own time of leaders, that the strong leadership in Ireland would continue. And he prayed for young people “who now fret and lose hope in our national conversations.”
“Is this the St. Patrick’s Day for which we longed, or indeed a day of uncertainty which we feared?” he asked. “Let us never have to say to each other Happy St. Patrick’s Day unless it’s with the conviction that we will not lose the lessons of generosity that we learned yesterday.”
VP then returned to the lectern to offer a toast of orange juice, “To the United States and Ireland. Remember, as my mother would say, we’re defined by our courage and we’re redeemed by our loyalty.”
The VP’s office provided the following list of attendees at breakfast:
His Excellency Enda Kenny, Taoiseach
Mrs. Fionnuala Kenny, Spouse of Taoiseach
Her Excellency Anne Anderson, Ambassador of
Ireland to the United States
Dr. Frank Lowe, Partner of Ambassador Anderson
Mr. Mark Kennelly, Special Adviser, Department of the Taoiseach
Mr. Martin Fraser, Secretary-General, Department of the Taoiseach
Mr. John Callinan, Director-General, Northern Ireland and International Division, Department of the Taoiseach
Mr. Fearrgal Purcell, Government Press Secretary
T.H. John Kerry, Secretary, U.S. Department of State
T.H. Shaun Donovan, Director, Office of Management and Budget
T.H. Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator
Your pooler also spotted the following:
Reps. John Carney of Delaware and Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts; Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Chris Coons of Delaware; ex-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; ex-Sen. Chris Dodd; Kathleen Matthews, a candidate for Congress in Maryland’s 8th district and Fran Person, a candidate in South Carolina’s 5th district; Hunter Biden, VP’s son, and Valerie Biden Owens, VP’s sister; Vicki Kennedy; Mike Barnicle and Lawrence O’Donnell.