President Joe Biden will host Irish leader Leo Varadkar for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the White House on Friday after the COVID pandemic scuttled festivities for the past two years.
Green will be the theme of the day amid a packed-schedule of holiday-related activities that includes an Oval Office meeting, a luncheon on Capitol Hill hosted by Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Irish eggs for breakfast with Vice President Kamala Harris.
Varadkar’s visit comes after Biden said he plans to visit both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland next month, which marks the 25th anniversary of the U.S.-brokered Good Friday accord.
The agreement helped end sectarian violence that had raged for three decades over whether Northern Ireland should unify with Ireland or remain part of the United Kingdom.
“I want to acknowledge the central role which the US has played in the peace process on our island, driving it forward and critical points,” Varadkar said Friday morning during his meeting with Harris. The two men will also discuss the war in Ukraine when they meet in the Oval Office.
Ahead of his meeting with Biden, Varadkar and his partner Matthew Barrett visited the Naval Observatory for breakfast with Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
“Eggs St. Patrick” were on the menu. It’s an Irish twist on Eggs Benedict. Harris wore a green pants suit for the occasion.
The three men had shamrock in the breast pockets of their suit jackets.
She acknowledged Biden’s love of all things Irish and noted: “He is quite exuberant in that joy and I now have caught the bug.”
Later on Friday, the boyband One Direction and Irish singer Niall Horan will perform for leaders and invited guests at the White House.
Horan was one of the five members of One Direction, the popular 2010 English-Irish boy band, which sold more than 70 million records globally. The band officially split in January 2016.
During Friday’s visit, Varadkar is expected to present Biden with an engraved crystal bowl of shamrocks, a tradition that began in 1952.
Last year, on St. Patrick’s Day, then-prime minister Micheál Martin tested positive for COVID, leading to him meeting with Biden virtually instead. And, in 2021, Martin and Biden celebrated virtually because of the pandemic.
Varadkar, who served as Taoiseach from 2017 to 2020, returned to the role in December.
He was last in Washington for St. Patrick’s Day when Donald Trump was president.
The holiday is becoming a tradition to celebrate at the White House. About 31.5 million U.S. residents claim Irish heritage, according to the Census bureau, second only to German.
Biden, in particular, is proud of his Irish roots, speaks of them often and, in most of his speeches, quotes an Irish poet. His mother’s family – the Finnegans – were Irish-American immigrants.
The president has long made it clear he wanted to visit Ireland as president, but Northern Ireland’s trade status was causing a diplomatic headache when it came to a presidential visit.
But that obstacle was cleared when Britain and the European Union agreed the Windsor Framework, paving the way for trade to make its way across the Ireland/Northern Ireland border.
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, essentially stayed in the European Union market, along with its neighbor the Republic of Ireland, an independent country, when Britain voted for to exit the E.U. The Windsor Framework will keep goods moving without upending the Good Friday Agreement.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak personally invited Biden to come, when he met with him in San Diego on Monday during an aukus event.