Northern Ireland

St Patrick’s Day: Taoiseach vows to press for Gaza ceasefire when meeting US President Joe Biden

St Patrick’s Day reception at White House will be overshadowed by tensions over Gaza conflict

The White House (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
The White House. PICTURE: CAROLYN KASTER/AP (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he will highlight the concerns of the Irish people on the “shocking crisis in Gaza” and reiterate calls for an immediate ceasefire by Israel when meeting US President Joe Biden in Washington DC for St Patrick’s Day.

Political representatives from both the north and south of Ireland are preparing to depart for the annual delegation to the US capital for St Patrick’s Day, though this year the gathering at the White House will be boycotted by the SDLP over the president’s response to the conflict in Gaza.

The party’s delegates will instead meet senior lawmakers and Palestinian American groups in the city to discuss calls for a ceasefire.

The taoiseach will depart on Wednesday for a series of engagements ahead of his meeting with Mr Biden, where he said he would thank the president for his “strong and ongoing support for Ireland and in particular for the long-standing role played by the US in the Irish peace process, reflecting on the recent positive developments in Northern Ireland”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House last year
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with President Joe Biden at the White House in 2023. PICTURE: NIALL CARSON/PA (Niall Carson/PA)

He added: “I will also raise the concerns of the Irish people on the shocking crisis in Gaza, reiterating our call for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire to facilitate a massive increase in the humanitarian aid that can reach desperate people and the immediate and unconditional release of the remaining hostages.

“I will be emphasising that a peaceful and secure future for all people in the region can come only from a two state solution, with Israel living side-by-side in peace with a fully-fledged State of Palestine.”

Meanwhile, Stormont’s Sinn Féin economy minister Conor Murphy has already arrived in the US, and ahead of the White House visit will attend events including a business reception hosted by US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, Joe Kennedy III.

Sinn Féin economy minister Conor Murphy in New York.
Sinn Féin economy minister Conor Murphy in New York.

“This is an important visit to strengthen our economic links with the US. I will be highlighting what the north can offer to US investors, particularly in terms of dual market access,” Mr Murphy said.

Sinn Féin has faced criticism for the decision by party president Mary Lou McDonald and First Minister Michelle O’Neill to attend the White House reception.

Ms McDonald has said Sinn Féin will use the visit to “advocate for an end to the Israeli genocidal war and occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.”