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Taoiseach addresses American Ireland Fund Gala dinner, Washington

Taoiseach Enda Kenny today addressed the American Ireland Fund Gala dinner in Washington, D.C. The Taoiseach is in Washington on the final part of his visit to the United States to mark St Patrick's day.

In his address, the Taoiseach said:

From the time I was child it struck me that as a people we chose well to make this time of year Patrick’s time. Because this is the Spring Equinox when new light, new life, new growth, drive the long Winter, the long dark nights, from the Northern lands… Northern hearts.

And as we do what better time is there to remind ourselves of this global idea of Ireland that goes right to the complexity, the nuance, the limitless possibilities of who we are, who we imagine ourselves to be, as the proud Irish people...

When we last met here in Washington DC, I was Taoiseach for 8 days. As I said then and I say again – a year on – these are extraordinary times for Ireland. In the long history of our small nation there has never been such an unprecedented challenge nor such an extraordinary opportunity.

It’s been a year of steady progress for Ireland. The government has made a solid start. Our economy is growing. Deposits are flowing back into our banks. Exports are thriving. I lead a determined government – determined to succeed, determined to re-assert Ireland’s place in the world, determined to offer the Irish people new opportunities.

President Clinton very recently told international investors that ‘they’d be nuts not to invest in Ireland’. And I know there is a renewed desire to help here in the US.

The Taoiseach spoke of improved relations between Ireland and Britain:

The visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland marked a new chapter in what is now a strong, positive and forward looking relationship. Her visit spoke so eloquently of the new reality that relations between our own two countries have been transformed and strengthened in recent decades. The closing of old wounds has given new life to the oldest of relationships.

The new challenge now facing all of the people of Ireland is to bring about economic recovery.

Just last Monday, before David Cameron departed for his visit to this fine city, we signed a joint declaration setting out how we intend to strengthen and deepen our relationship over the next ten years. How we will forge even deeper links between our economies and our societies. How we will continue to work together for a shared, peaceful and prosperous society in Northern Ireland.

The Taoiseach also spoke of the Gathering 2013:

As you know, next year we’re hosting The Gathering, Ireland’s biggest ever tourism initiative, a year long celebration of what is best about Ireland, its people, its culture. And we’re sending the mother-of-all invitations to our Irish family – by birth, by adoption, by desire.

Read the Taoiseach's full speech here.