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US visit chance to share Irish view with Biden

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended his upcoming annual visit to meet US President Joe Biden at the White House for St Patrick’s Day, saying it is an opportunity to share Irish views on conflict in the Middle East.

There have been calls from pro-Palestinian supporters in Ireland for parties to boycott the annual St Patrick’s engagements in Washington, because of the US’s ongoing support for Israel as it pursues its offensive in Gaza.

An online petition urging the Taoiseach not to attend the event has more almost 11,000 signatures.

Speaking to journalists before Cabinet this morning, Mr Varadkar said the meeting is an “opportunity as Taoiseach to share the views of the Irish people with the US President in relation to this matter”.

“I don’t see why we’d pass that up,” he said.

Mr Varadkar also expressed hope that the conflict will have come to an end by 17 March.

“There are talks about a ceasefire and when this conflict ends, it won’t end because of a court order. It will come to an end because of political agreement and diplomacy,” he said.

His comments come after the SDLP said it will not attend celebratory St Patrick’s events at the White House.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said that St Patrick’s Day events are an opportunity to “get that message out” to call for a Gaza ceasefire.

“That what’s happening is completely unacceptable, there has to be a ceasefire now,” he said.

“Why wouldn’t we use the opportunity of the global stage that we have on St Patrick’s Day to get that message out.

“I think that’s what we will and should do.”

Additional reporting: PA

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