Republic of Ireland news

Taoiseach begins St Patrick's trip to the US in Texas

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets Texas governor Greg Abbott and his wife Cecilia Nee Phalen at the Governors Mansion in Austin at the beginning of his week long visit to the US Picture by Niall Carson/PA
By David Young, Press Association

The taoiseach has begun his St Patrick's trip to the US with a series of engagements in Texas.

Austin in Texas is the first stop on Leo Varadkar's week-long programme of events stateside.

As is tradition, the focus of the itinerary will be Mr Varadkar's meeting with US president Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday.

The problems encountered by the tens of thousands of Irish citizens who live in the US without legal residency are set to feature in the Oval Office discussions.

With the Republic's economy supported by thousands of jobs created by US-based multinationals, President Trump's "America First" protectionist policies may also be raised, as might Ireland's controversial tax arrangements with some of those companies.

The ongoing powersharing crisis in Northern Ireland is also likely to feature to the talks.

As well as Austin and Washington DC, the taoiseach will also fulfil engagements New York.

He will also visit a Native American community in Oklahoma.

His meeting with the Choctaw Nation will commemorate the tribe's fundraising efforts for the victims of the Great Famine in the mid 19th Century.

In Austin, the taoiseach will celebrate Irish innovation at the South by Southwest festival and meet the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott.

After further stops in Texas and then Oklahoma, Mr Varadkar travels to Washington DC on Tuesday where he will deliver a foreign policy address to the Brookings Institution.

That evening, the Taoiseach and Senator George Mitchell will be keynote speakers at a congressional event to mark 20 years since the signing of Northern Ireland's Good Friday Agreement peace agreement.

His Washington engagements also include meetings with senior representatives of Irish companies succeeding in the US market.

On Wednesday, the taoiseach will address the annual American Ireland Fund gala dinner.

Keeping with recent traditions, Mr Varadkar's bilateral meeting with Mr Trump on Thursday will be followed by the annual speaker's lunch on Capitol Hill and the ceremonial exchange of a shamrock bowl between the president and taoiseach back at the White House.

On Friday, the taoiseach will be guest of honour at a breakfast hosted by vice-president Mike Pence.

Mr Varadkar will end his trip in New York where his series of engagements will include the St Patrick's Day parade along Fifth Avenue on Saturday.

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