White House committed to Ireland peace process, Mike Pence says


Vice President Mike Pence has stressed the enduring commitment of the United States to the peace process in Ireland.

Mr Pence said he and President Donald Trump hoped the friendship across the Atlantic would grow and strengthen in their time in the White House.

In an at times emotional speech, where he claimed that all he achieved in life was due to his own Irish heritage, Mr Pence told a gala dinner in Washington that Ireland and the US would always be entwined.

"We may be separated by an ocean but the American people have always been bound by kinship to the Irish people and we always will," he said.

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny was also among guests at the Ireland Funds America event. It was held ahead of his first meeting with President Trump in the White House on Thursday.

Mr Pence made clear the new administration was fully committed to securing the gains of the peace process.

"Tonight it's an honour to be here on behalf of President Trump to reaffirm the United States' enduring commitment to the Republic of Ireland, to Northern Ireland, to the peace process and above all else to the timeless and enduring friendship between our people and yours," he said.

He said he wanted to "congratulate" the people of Northern Ireland for turning out to the polls in high numbers in the recent Stormont election.

"The advance of peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland is one of the great success stories of the past 20 years," he said.

"We thank those unsung heroes in Ireland and Northern Ireland who day in and day out do the difficult and important work - strengthening communities, educating children, building that brighter future for the emerald isle and all who call it home."

Mr Pence spoke with fondness about his Irish grandfather Richard Michael Cawley, who emigrated to the US from Co Sligo in 1923.

He said he thought about him repeatedly during inauguration day in January.

"As I stood on that inauguration stage I just kept thinking of that Irishman, kept thinking about what he would be thinking about looking down from glory," he said.

"The truth is that whatever honours I will receive over the course of my service as vice president, to receive an honour in the name of the Irish people and my Irish heritage will count as chief among them because all that I am and all that I will ever be and all the service that I will ever make is owing to my Irish heritage."

In conclusion, Mr Pence said: "So here's to Ireland, here's to the United States of America, here's to our shared heritage and here's to the confident hope that the ties between our people and the Irish people will only grow and expand as the years go on, to the betterment of our people and the world."

Mr Kenny presented the vice president with a roll book from a Co Sligo school that included the name of his grandfather.

"The vice president has joined the distinguished list of Irish Americans who have occupied the highest political offices in the United States," said the Taoiseach.

"We take special pride in the fact that, for the first time in the history of this great republic, one Irish American has succeeded another in the office of vice president.

"The United States now gives another immigrant son the opportunity to contribute to the wellbeing of our common humanity. I know you will grasp that unique opportunity with both hands."

The event was also addressed by Senator George Mitchell, the man credited with mediating Northern Ireland's historic 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

He used his speech to highlight the need for the US to adopt immigration policies that reflected the nation's founding values.

"Every rational American knows that we cannot return to the days of open immigration - there must be realistic limits on how many can enter and who they are," he said.

"But we must work together to develop policies that focus on how we can live up to our principles as a just, open and welcoming society.

"How we can focus on who we want to enter, not just who we want to keep out or throw out."