Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will propose a scheme offering visas and residence rights to Americans who want to move to Ireland in exchange for protection for the undocumented Irish in the US when he meets President Donald Trump today.
Mr Varadkar will hold his first meeting with the US president, with the issues of immigration, tax and trade policy expected to top the agenda.
Among the proposals to be discussed is a reciprocal arrangement whereby Ireland offers new work visas to Americans and protections to US citizens who want to retire to Ireland. Currently, there are significant barriers to American citizens who want to move here, including certain financial and healthcare requirements.
Mr Varadkar also confirmed he would extend an invitation to Mr Trump to visit Ireland despite stating last year that he “wouldn’t invite him”.
“The invitation that Taoiseach Enda Kenny made to Donald Trump stands… He’s going to invite me to his house, and I think it’s absolutely appropriate normal hospitality that when someone invites you to their country, their house, you reciprocate with an invitation,” he said.
Asked if he would accompany Mr Trump for a round of golf if the president visited Doonbeg, the Taoiseach said he does not play golf.
Visit the Border
He invited Mr Trump to visit the Border, adding that the US President had expressed interest in it during a phone call last summer.
Mr Varadkar’s decision to invite Mr Trump was denounced by Opposition figures.
During today’s meeting in the Oval Office, the Taoiseach will be accompanied by John Deasy, the Government’s special envoy to the US, secretary general Martin Fraser, Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhall and other officials. The US president’s chief of staff John Kelly and budget director Mick Mulvaney are also expected to attend.
In a break from tradition there will be no public remarks from the Vice President and the Taoiseach following their breakfast tomorrow.
The Taoiseach earlier this week said he would raise the issue of gay rights with Mike Pence who is known to be a conservative.
Following his meeting in the Oval Office today, Mr Varadkar will travel to the US Congress, where he will attend the annual St Patrick’s Day lunch hosted by house speaker Paul Ryan.
Mr Varadkar is scheduled to hold private meetings with senior congressional figures including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, after the lunch.
Several senior figures from the Irish and Northern Irish community will attend the St Patrick’s Day reception in the White House, including Central Bank governor Philip Lane, Northern Secretary Karen Bradley, former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and the DUP’s Ian Paisley junior.
Asked if she felt “snubbed” by the decision by the White House not to invite her to the reception, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was a matter for the White House.
“I don’t feel that I was snubbed,” she said in Washington yesterday.
She also insisted that Mr Adams should not turn down his own invitation in solidarity.
“Of course Gerry should attend; this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement,” she said.