Foreign Policy Blogs

St. Patrick's Day highlights Ireland's role as stepping stone between US & EU

It must be a bit of a mystery (if not a source of annoyance) for most European leaders to see President Obama, the leader of the most powerful nation on earth  devoting much of his last Tuesday to one of the smallest countries in Europe – one that is not even a military ally of the United States. Gordon Brown, most especially, must wonder what ears Ireland is bending to get this sort of treatment. As I blogged before, Brown was the first European leader to meet President Obama but even he, as the US’s most staunch ally, only got a 20 minute photo-op in the Oval Office.

The reason for this frostiness is that President Obama is currently almost completely focused on domestic affairs, however he made a big exception for St. Patrick’s Day.  According to the Irish Times, the Irish Prime-Minister (his title in Ireland is “Taoiseach” which translates from gaelic as leader or chieften) met President Barack Obama in the Oval Office for almost an hour on Tuesday, joined by vice-president Joe Biden, secretary of state Hillary Clinton and national security adviser Jim Jones. Afterwards the Taoiseach and the President joined House speaker Nancy Pelosi for lunch on Capitol Hill, with dozens of congressmen and senators, including chairmen of some of the most powerful committees. In the evening, the president hosted almost 400 people at the most elaborate party the White House has seen since he took office. When naming one of his closest supporters as US Ambassador to Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, President Obama said he hoped the Ambassador would  “ensure America’s continued close and unique partnership with Ireland in the years ahead”.

One Irish journalist asked a senior lobbyist how much he would charge countries for such access,  “You’d never get it,” he said. “But you could charge them millions every month just promising it.”

But as the Irish Times makes clear, Ireland’s  unique access is closly tied to its relationship with Europe & the single biggest threat to the relationsip “is uncertainty over our relationship with the rest of the European Union after the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty”. Having free access to the European market and being influential members of the European Union is important for US companies investing in Ireland, even President Obama asked the Taoiseach to convey his concerns about how Europe is facing the financial crisis to a European Council meeting today in Brussels. As the Irish Times commented “Diplomatically, Ireland can serve as a valuable bridge between Washington and Europe”, but this can only continue if Ireland approves the Lisbon Treaty in  re-run of the Referendum in Autumn and remains at the heart of EU decision-making.

St. Patrick's Day highlights Ireland's role as stepping stone between US & EUIrish Prime-Minister (Taoiseach) Cowan & President Obama share a joke.



David Garrahy

David Garrahy works in Brussels monitoring European Union activites. He is originally from Ireland and studied a Degree in Law & European Studies at the University of Limerick before earning a Masters in Globalisation at Dublin City Universty. Previously he has worked in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission and as a Legislative Aide for an Irish Senator. His involvement in the EU has included working for the Irish Forum on Europe and campaigning in Referenda in favour of the Nice & Lisbon Treaties.

Area of Focus
Europe; Globalisation; European Comission.


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