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Donald Trump vows to strengthen ties between US and Ireland

President Trump has pledged enhanced United States co-operation and support for the island of Ireland under his leadership.

Accepting a bowl of shamrock from Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the close of a day when he also vowed to visit Ireland during his presidency, Mr Trump promised the bonds between the US and both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic would be strengthened.

"As America gains renewed strength Ireland will find us to be an ever faithful partner and an always loyal friend, we will be there for you," he told Mr Kenny.

The shamrock presentation in the East Room of the White House ended the Taoiseach's packed programme of St Patrick's engagements with senior figures in the new administration.

Earlier, Mr Trump told him he was his "new friend" after the pair met in the Oval Office.

Both leaders were also hosted by Speaker Paul Ryan at his traditional St Patrick's lunch on Capitol Hill.

Speaking at the annual event, Mr Trump said he "loved Ireland and the people of Ireland".

"The people of Ireland and the people of the United States have stuck together through good times and bad times," he said.

"Over many centuries we have built a bond that thrives, inspires and endures and with us it's going to be closer than ever before.

"So as we celebrate our shared history and our enduring friendship let us commit ourselves to working together, as we will, to build on that bond to the benefit of our citizens for many more generations to come."

During the lunch, Mr Kenny made an impassioned plea to the president to help the 50,000 "undocumented" Irish who live in the United States without legal permission.

The Taoiseach has long campaigned for a legal pathway to be opened up to allow the undocumented to obtain legal residency without fear of deportation.

The issue has drawn intense focus on this year's visit, given the president's hard-line stance on immigration.

After the White House meeting, Mr Kenny said he and the president had agreed to work constructively on the issue.

He said they also discussed the potential of securing more visa routes for new Irish immigrants wishing to move to the US.

At the speaker's lunch, the Taoiseach stressed the important role played by so many Irish people through US history.

"This is what I said to your predecessor on a number of occasions - we would like this to be sorted," he told the president.

"It would remove a burden off so many people that they can stand out in the light and say 'now I am free to contribute to America, as I know I can'."

Mr Kenny also hailed those who continue to work for reconciliation in Northern Ireland, name-checking lunch guests Democratic Unionist MP Ian Paisley jnr and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.

Turning to the president, the Taoiseach said: "We want to protect this peace process and I know you are going to work with us in that context also."

The earlier Oval Office meeting between Mr Kenny and Mr Trump was the new president's first face-to-face encounter with a leader of one of the 27 EU states that will remain in the union post-Brexit.

Mr Trump has been a vocal critic of the EU, having praised the UK's decision to leave, and the prospects of securing a bilateral transatlantic trade deal between Europe and the US appear to have receded under the new administration.

Mr Kenny said there was still the potential for negotiating new trade arrangements between the US and EU.

"Ireland will always be a friend of America, the European Union will always be a friend of America and that cooperation between these two most developed economies will be to the mutual benefit of millions of people in Europe and the United States," he said.

The meeting had the potential to be an awkward one, given that during the election campaign Mr Kenny accused Mr Trump of using "racist and dangerous" language.

Afterwards, the Taoiseach batted away a media question on whether the issue was raised during the bilateral discussions.

Mr Ryan spoke with pride of his own Irish roots as he addressed his lunch guests.

"Ireland may be a small island but look at all she has given us," he said.

He said Mr Trump was sure to get a warm reception when he visited Ireland.

"We went from a president who plays a lot of golf to a president who owns a lot of golf courses," said the speaker.

"That is about the closest thing you can get to royalty in Ireland."

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