US president Donald Trump has confirmed he will visit Ireland later this year.
Mr Trump told Leo Varadkar that he wanted to make the trip during a meeting with the Taoiseach in the Oval Office in the White House on Thursday.
Mr Varadkar is on the second day of his annual St Patrick’s Day tour to the United States.
Mr Trump said: “I am coming at some point during the year. I missed it last time and I would’ve loved to have been there.
President Trump hosted Ireland this morning in the White House. The Irish relationship with the US remains very strong. We had a great discussion about trade, Northern Ireland, Brexit and Irish immigration and I thanked him for his support protecting jobs at Aughinish. pic.twitter.com/dKoS0HBkSh— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) March 14, 2019
“It’s a special place and I have a very warm spot for Doonbeg, I will tell you that, and it’s just a great place.”
One of Mr Trump’s golf courses is in the County Clare village of Doonbeg.
Speaking ahead of a private meeting with Mr Varadkar, the US president said Brexit was “tearing countries apart”.
The president, who earlier set out his hopes for a “large scale” US-UK trade deal, added that: “I’m not sure anybody knows” what was happening with Brexit.
“It’s a very complex thing right now, it’s tearing a country apart. It’s actually tearing a lot of countries apart and it’s a shame it has to be that way but I think we will stay right in our lane,” Mr Trump said.
The two leaders discussed Brexit as well as a number of Irish-US specific matters.
Afterwards Mr Varadkar said he had a “really good meeting” with President Trump.
“We spoke about Brexit. Needless to say we have very different views on Brexit as to whether it’s a good thing, but it was a real opportunity for me to set out Ireland’s position, particularly when it comes to protecting the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement and protecting the border.”
He added that Mr Trump was supportive of the peace process in Ireland and that he wanted to avoid a hard border.
The Taoiseach said: “It’s not particularly support that I’ve asked for from the president on Brexit.
“What I’ve asked for is an understanding of our situation particularly when it comes to Northern Ireland and avoiding a hard border and protecting the peace process.
“And he is supportive of that point.”
The Fine Gael leader said that he and Mr Trump had a “good chat” about the benefits of a US special envoy to Northern Ireland, but he said that an appointment was not imminent.
“Both of us thought it was a good idea so we talked about how that might work,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s something that’s imminent but the president was very interested to know how it would work and what the benefits might be.”
Mr Varadkar also said the leaders spoke about the issue of the undocumented Irish in the US.
“We talked about immigration. Very strong support from the president around the issue of securing more visas for Irish people to come and work here in the US, and (to) help us solve the issue of tens of thousands of Irish people who came here a long time ago but are undocumented,” the Taoiseach said.
On Thursday evening Mr Varadkar will attend the annual St Patrick’s Day shamrock ceremony in the White House where he will gift Mr Trump a customary bowl of shamrock.
Earlier on Thursday US vice president Mike Pence confirmed he was also planning a trip to Ireland with his mother Nancy.
Mr Pence made the comments at a breakfast meeting with Mr Varadkar and his partner at the vice-president’s residence in the capital.
During the meeting Mr Varadkar said that he is not judged by his sexual orientation but by his political actions.
“I stand here leader of my country, flawed and human but judged by my political actions and not by my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender or religious beliefs.” Mr Varadkar added: “I don’t believe my country is the only one in the world where this story is possible.
“It’s found in every country were freedom and liberty are cherished. We are, after all, all God’s children.
“And that’s true of the United States as well, the land of hope, brave and free.”
Mr Pence, who describes himself as a Christian and a conservative, extended an invitation to the couple during a meeting with Mr Varadkar last year.
Mr Varadkar is Ireland’s first openly gay leader and one of very few openly gay national leaders in the world.
At the traditional shamrock presentation at the White House on Thursday evening, Mr Varadkar praised Mr Trump’s ambitions to “make America Great Again”.
During the annual event, the Taoiseach presented the US president with a bowl of shamrock to mark his St Patrick’s visit to Washington DC.
The bowl presented to Mr Trump, in the company of his wife, Melania, was made in Kilkenny Crystal in Callan, the home town of Irish-American architect James Hoban.
Mr Trump, who was joined on stage by Mr Pence, said that millions of Americans across the country celebrate the “inspiring” Irish people on St Patrick’s Day.
The event marked the end of Mr Varadkar’s trip to Washington DC before he travels to Chicago on Friday for the second part of his St Patrick’s trip.