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St Patrick’s Day: ‘We see our history in their eyes’ Taoiseach says of Palestinians during traditional shamrock ceremony with Taoiseach

Joe Biden and Leo Varadkar held annual ceremony at the White House on Sunday

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and US President Joe Biden during the St Patrick's Day ceremony in the White House. PICTURE: NIALL CARSON/PA
Taoiseach visit to the US Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and US President Joe Biden during the St Patrick's Day ceremony in the White House. PICTURE: NIALL CARSON/PA (Niall Carson/Niall Carson/PA Wire)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Irish people “see our history” in the plight of the Palestinian people, during the White House St Patrick’s Day shamrock ceremony with US President Joe Biden.

The annual tradition of presenting a bowl of shamrock to the President for St Patrick’s Day and comes at the end of Mr Varadkar’s week-long visit to the US.

The event was overshadowed by Israel’s war in Gaza, which has led to over 30,000 Palestinian deaths.

Mr Varadkar said Irish people see their own history reflected in both Palestinians and Israelis.



“The Irish people are deeply troubled about the catastrophe that’s unfolding before our eyes in Gaza. When I travel the world, leaders often ask me why the Irish have so much empathy for the Palestinian people. The answer is simple: We see our history in their eyes,” he said.

US President Joe Biden shows emotion as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the St Patrick's Day reception. PICTURE: NIALL CARSON/PA
Taoiseach visit to the US US President Joe Biden shows emotion as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the St Patrick's Day reception. PICTURE: NIALL CARSON/PA (Niall Carson/Niall Carson/PA Wire)

“A story of displacement and dispossession, a national identity questioned and denied, forced emigration, discrimination, and now - hunger. So we support your work, and that of your administration, to secure a humanitarian ceasefire and to create the space for lasting peace. The people of Gaza desperately need food, medicine and shelter. Most especially they need the bombs to stop. This has to stop. On both sides. The hostages brought home. And humanitarian relief allowed in.

“Israel must reverse its precipitous decision to authorise a land incursion into Rafah. And after 100 years of violence, as you said, the only secure future lies in two states peaceful and sovereign, side by side. Ireland stands ready to recognise a Palestinian state with like-minded partners when it is most helpful for peace.”

“Mr President, we also see Israel’s history reflected in our eyes. A diaspora whose heart never left home no matter how many generations passed. A nation state that was reborn. And a language revived. I believe it is possible to be for Israel and for Palestine and I believe you do too. Because the life of a Palestinian child is equal to that of an Israeli one.

“And the aspiration of the Palestinian people to have a homeland, and a fully-fledged State, in the land of their forefathers is equal to that of Israel’s.”

Mr Biden said the US and Ireland are aligned on both support for Ukraine and increasing aid to Gaza.

“Our countries stand proudly for liberty and against tyranny. We stand together and oppose Russia’s brutal war of aggression in Ukraine,” he said.

He added: “The Taoiseach and I agree for the urgent need to increase humanitarian assistance in Gaza and get the ceasefire deal that brings hostages home and moves towards a two-state solution.”

Meanwhile, Mr Biden, who is known to celebrate his Irish heritage, paid tribute to immigrants who left Ireland for the US and added during his speech: “The Irish spirit can never be overcome.”

The President, who joked that there should be a public holiday the day after St Patrick’s day anytime it falls on a Sunday, recognised 100 years of diplomatic relations between the US and Ireland: “In that time, the ties between us have deepened and multiplied.”

He also welcomed Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly.



“Young people in Northern Ireland represent the great peace dividend of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement. Entire generations whose hearts have been shaped not by grievances of the past but a confidence in a better future that we’re writing together. The United States believes in that future.”