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Madame Vice President,
In November 1990, thirty years to the day before your recent election, Ireland elected our first woman President, Mary Robinson.
In her inauguration speech, she famously remarked that she had been elected by the women of Ireland who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system.
And, setting out her vision for the office, she quoted her friend, the brilliant Irish poet & Stanford Professor, Eavan Boland, observing that she was determined to write women who had been outside history back into it.
Alongside President Biden, your own election, Madame Vice President, has written history at many levels.
As you have said, you may be the first woman in your role, but you will not be the last.
I hope, Madame Vice President, that I will have the opportunity to welcome you to Ireland too during your time as Vice President.
You know the ties between our nations are rich and deep.
The grass on the flag of your own home state of California, on which that famous grizzly bear prowls, is officially an ‘‘Irish green’’. A testament to the immigrants who helped build the Golden State.
One of them was Kate Kennedy, of Meath. She led the "equal pay for equal work" campaign of 1874, which successfully lobbied the California legislature to provide female teachers the same pay as their male counterparts.
And in 1886 she was the first woman in California to run for state-wide office. She didn’t win, any more than the fight for equal pay was won at that time – but she put both ideas on the agenda, she changed the playbook.
Earlier this week, I had cause to congratulate two other Irish immigrants to California, Patrick and John Collison. I first encountered Patrick Collison, when, aged 16, he won Ireland’s Young Scientist Exhibition.
He moved to California some years later with his equally brilliant brother, John, and together they founded their company Stripe. This week it was declared the most valuable start up in America. It now has dual headquarters in Dublin and San Francisco, an exemplar of the deep and mutually beneficial, mutually inspiring ties between our nations.
Madame Vice President,
I look forward to discussing these ties with you this morning.
I also greatly look forward to meeting some brilliant young people with you later - the first class of Frederick Douglass Global Fellows to visit Ireland, following in the footsteps of the great abolitionist 175 years ago
I look forward to our discussions, but, most of all, I am delighted to have this opportunity to get to know you and to wish you a very happy St Patrick’s Day.