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St. Patrick's Day at Biden's house. Irish Times pool report

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By Lara Marlowe
Washington Correspondent
The Irish Times

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr Jill Biden greeted the Taoiseach and Mrs Mary Cowen on the front steps of the residence at the Naval Observatory.

"Happy Saint Patrick's Day!" Mr Biden explained. "Anyone not wearing green is not allowed in the house."

Mary Cowen was the "greenest" of the four, in a bright kelly green blazer. She and the Taoiseach wore springs of shamrock in their lapels. The Vice President wore dyed green flowers.

The residence is a white, three-storey, New England style house with green shutters and a turret, set in manicured grounds, with views over Washington. Pool reporter noticed oil portraits of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln inside.

Guests at the breakfast for 50 included the Irish foreign minister, Micheál Martin and his wife Mary, the Irish Ambassador Michael Collins and his wife Marie, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop emeritus of Washington, who said blessing.

Vicki and Kara Kennedy sat at the table with VPOTUS and the Taoiseach. Vicki Kennedy wore mourning black, with a green shirt underneath.

Tim Kaine, the chairman of the DNC and Congressman Peter King (R) from New York also attended. MSNBC's Chris Matthews sat beside the Irish ambassador. Maureen Dowd of the NYT was also there.

The menu included spinach, mushroom gruyere and tomato omelette, chicken apple sausage, country potatoes, fruit and Irish soda bread.

In his remarks VPOTUS recounted the old saying: "If you're lucky enough to be Irish, then you're lucky."

Addressing Vicki and Kara Kennedy, VPOTUS said, "It's kind of strange to be celebrating St Patrick's Day without the patron saint of all of us...(Teddy Kennedy).

VPOTUS thanked the Taoiseach for remembering his late mother, Jean Finnegan Biden, who died in January. She was "a quintessential Irish-American" he said, "spiritual, romantic, she honoured tradition and understood that the thickest of all substances is blood. She taught us that failure at some point was inevitable, but giving up is unforgiveable... I know that Mom and Teddy are staring down. She always checked I wore what she called a boutonniere, and that I had ash on my forehead on Ash Wednesday."

VPOTUS looked upward, as if addressing his mother in heaven: "Mom, I am being good, and I got the Taoiseach."

During his mother's lifetime "the small island 3,000 miles away" moved closer to the US. Regarding the now finished "Celtic Tiger" period, VPOTUS quoted his mother saying "I never saw so many Irishmen not leave."

Raising a glass, VPOTUS said, "My grandfather Finnegan would roll over in his grave, me toasting with water. To Ireland and America." He then quoted Saint Patrick in the 5th century: "May the strength of God pilot you..."

The Taoiseach then rose to the podium. "We know, Mr Vice President, how much your Irish heritage means to you and the pride you take in that heritage... We are very proud indeed to claim Joe Biden, as we say at home, as "one of our own".

As the Taoiseach paid tribute to VPOTUS' mother and Teddy Kennedy, the Vice President and Vicki Kennedy both stared reflectively into space.

Mr Cowen expressed gratitude for US support in the Northern Ireland peace process and said that with last week's vote in the Assembly, "The last piece of the jigsaw is in place."

He then invited VPOTUS and Dr Biden to visit Ireland soon.

As the breakfast ended, a harpist from the Air Force band played "The Foggy Dew".


Lara Marlowe
Washington Correspondent
The Irish Times

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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