Europe

Enda Kenny meets Barack Obama and Joe Biden at White House

Barack Obama presented with bowl of shamrock Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Presiden Obama is presented with a bowl of shamrock by Enda Kenny

Caretaker Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny has met President Barack Obama at the White House.

The meeting took place on Mr Obama's last St Patrick's Day as president.

Depending on the outcome of negotiations to form a new government in the Republic of Ireland, it could also be Mr Kenny's last as taoiseach.

However, Mr Kenny told Vice President Joe Biden that Ireland would be able to put together a stable government during the next "short period ahead".

The recent general election in the Republic was mentioned several times during speeches from both men.

Mr Biden said that he was surprised at the outcome saying "he [Mr Kenny] did a hell of a job, is still the most popular guy, and he lost".

Mr Biden said Mr Kenny had assured him that it was "going to work out".

'Set of priorities'

Speaking to reporters after visiting the Oval Office, Mr Kenny said Fine Gael is talking to like-minded parties and individuals on government formation and is working on drawing-up a set of priorities.

"We're actually determining our set of priorities that will be important in the discussions that Fine Gael will have in putting together a government," he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Joe Biden, Enda Kenny and Barack Obama talk to reporters after the White House meeting

"Some of that comes from our own programme, some of it comes from the parties and the alliances that we've been talking to.

"And some of it clearly comes from the concerns raised by people during the course of the election, like housing and homelessness, health issues and so on."

He added: "We expect to have that finalised next week and that gives us really the basis for negotiations and for discussions about putting a government together."

At the White House, Mr Kenny presented the traditional bowl of shamrock to President Obama.

The bowl was hand-cut at the House of Waterford Crystal factory in Ireland.

He also presented the president with a pair of cuff links modelled on the buttons of the coat Michael Collins was wearing when he was killed, and a collection of poetry and art celebrating the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

Michelle Obama was given a ring designed by Paul Kelly, inspired by the Ring of Kerry, and a hamper of Irish food items.

Their daughters, Malia and Sasha, received two Newbridge Silver compact mirrors.

Mr Kenny will return to Ireland for a short time on Wednesday before travelling to Brussels for a European Council meeting on St Patrick's Day.

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