"The Pence’s will be travelling to Ireland" - US Vice President plans State visit

The Taoiseach met with US Vice President Mike Pence in Washington today

"The Pence’s will be travelling to Ireland" - US Vice President plans State visit

Leo Varadkar and Mike Pence | Image: Pooled photo released by the Government Press Office

Updated: 19.55

US Vice President Mike Pence has confirmed he plans to make a State visit to Ireland.

Mr Pence hosted the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a St Patrick’s Day breakfast at the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC today.

Speaking ahead of the meal, the US Vice President said he had accepted a return invitation from the Taoiseach.

“As the President said yesterday, the relationship between Ireland and the United States has never been stronger and it’s only getting better,” he said.

“I can attest to the strong and substantive discussions that we had yesterday and that will continue. 

“An Taoiseach invited our family to come to Ireland in my official capacity, and so I’d like to announce to all of you - The Pence’s will be travelling to Ireland in the coming years, I promise you that. 

“We will accept that wonderful invitation.” 

LGBT rights

Mr Pence also told the Taoiseach that his partner Matt Barrett would be welcome in his home if Mr Varadkar is still in office next year.

The two men discussed LGBT rights during a meeting at the White House yesterday. 

“I did privately get to speak to them about equality and about my support for equal rights for women and the LGBT community here in America and also in Ireland,” said Mr Varadkar.

“They were very well briefed; they knew about my personal story; knew my partner was living in Chicago and they said that both Matt and i would be very welcome to visit their home in the future.”

The US vice president has been an opponent of laws promoting marriage equality in the past.

Mr Varadkar has previously said he was disappointed America is no longer a leader when it comes to LGBT rights, and hoped to raise it with the vice-president.

Mr Pence has been vocally anti-gay marriage, saying being gay was a choice, and that keeping homosexuals from marrying was not discrimination - but an enforcement of God's idea.

According to the New York Times, the vice-president has faced accusations that he has supported 'conversion therapy' - treatments to try and change someone's sexual orientation. 

It comes as a new bill is aiming to outlaw such so-called 'conversion therapy' in Ireland.

While no media were allowed into the event earlier, pooled photos were released afterwards.

Mr Varadkar told reporters: "I appreciate from the media's point of view, you'd like to be there - and we would like you to be there too. But it's their decision that it will be closed to media.

"It allows us maybe the have a frank conversation that's easier to have without the media present."

The pair spoke about economics and Northern Ireland.

Image: Pooled photo released by the Government Press Office

Pence and Ireland

In a speech, Mr Varadkar focused on Mr Pence's Irish links and his immediate connections.

Mr Varadkar said: "Mr vice-president, it has also been my pleasure to make the acquaintance this morning of another wonderful Irish-American - your own mother, who has made the long journey to be here, and is clearly a proud member of the Irish Diaspora.

"In Ireland this year it is Bliain na Gaelige, when we celebrate our national language.

"I understand that as a child Vice-President Pence could recite the nursery rhyme, 'Humpty Dumpty' in Irish after learning it from his grandfather.

"I won't embarrass him by asking him how much he remembers. I won't embarrass myself by admitting I only know it in English."

Image: Pooled photo released by the Government Press Office

He also talked about Mr Pence's grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, who left Doocastle in Co Mayo as a young man.

"Not to forget, of course, your visits to your cousin's bar in Doonbeg, now in direct competition with your boss's slightly larger establishment across the street", he said.

 Touching on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Varadar said: "That agreement has stood the test of time. There have been bumps in the road, some serious, but the United States has always been by our side.

"While Northern Ireland has been free of serious violence for two decades, it continues to be beset by political divisions.

"The Power Sharing Executive, a cross-community assembly, has not met for more than a year now.

"I know we can count on this country to continue in its historic role as a supporter of our peace process and our right to self-determination."

Image: Pooled photo released by the Government Press Office

Concluding, Mr Varadkar invited the US vice-preident to Ireland: "Let me finish as I began, by thanking you for your hospitality to me and my delegation. We would be delighted to return the hospitality when you next visit Ireland."

After the event the Taoiseach travels to New York for engagements where he will be asked about what he said to Mr Pence and his comments yesterday in relation to calls he made on behalf of Donald Trump to Clare County Council about planning permission for a wind farm next to Mr Trump's Doonbeg resort.

With reporting from Sean Defoe in Washington DC, Stephen McNeice and Jack Quann and Michael Staines