WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama celebrated an extended St. Patrick’s Day at the White House Tuesday with a visit from Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who assured Obama that his debt-ridden nation would make an economic comeback.
Speaking in the Oval Office alongside the Irish leader, Obama expressed his confidence in Kenny’s government, saying he believed it would be able “to get Ireland moving again.” He said the two leaders also discussed the larger issue of European growth, which Obama said would have a positive impact on the U.S. economy.
Kenny said there are “signs of confidence” emerging from the Irish economy.
The Irish are struggling to reverse 14.4 percent unemployment, slow a renewed wave of emigration and rebuild a battered credit rating that forced the country to negotiate a humiliating 2010 bailout.
When Ireland’s property boom went bust in 2008, the government sought to save those banks from collapse by promising to ensure all their debts against default. That gamble failed to stem a tide of fleeing capital from Ireland and left taxpayers on the hook for repaying potentially $91 billion in bank losses.
Obama thanked the Irish people for the warm welcome he received when he visited Ireland last year and pledged to return with his wife, Michelle.
Obama and Kenny, along with Vice President Joe Biden, were to attend a St. Patrick’s Day lunch on Capitol Hill later Tuesday. The president and first lady also planned to host a reception for Kenny at the White House in the evening.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.