Belfast Telegraph

US vice president ‘looking forward to celebrating Irish roots’

Mike Pence is due to visit Ireland in early September.

US vice president Mike Pence is set to visit Ireland in early September (Niall Carson/PA)
US vice president Mike Pence is set to visit Ireland in early September (Niall Carson/PA)

By Michelle Devane, PA

US vice president Mike Pence has said he is looking forward to celebrating his Irish roots next month as the country is “very near to his family’s heart”.

The Republican is set to visit Ireland as part of a European trip on behalf of US president Donald Trump in early September.

The White House confirmed on Wednesday that Mr Pence would be in the UK on September 4 and 5 to discuss Brexit, Iran and the “threat of Chinese malign influence”, and that he would travel to Ireland on September 6 to meet the Irish president Michael D Higgins and Irish premier Leo Varadkar.

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Irish premier Leo Varadkar, left, met with US vice president Mike Pence on a visit to America in March (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Pence confirmed on Thursday that he would be making the trip, which also includes a visit to Iceland, with his wife Karen.

He wrote: “Look forward to travelling overseas with @SecondLady (Karen Pence) in September on behalf of @POTUS. On Sept 4, we will visit Iceland where I will meet with @PresidentISL & Foreign Minister @GudlaugurThor on expanding trade & investment opportunities & enhancing security in the Arctic region.

“Then we will visit London on September 5 for high-level meetings on trade, joint economic cooperation, countering Iran’s aggression, and the Special Relationship between our two countries.

“Finally, on September 6-7 we will travel to Ireland, a country that is very near to my family’s heart, where we look forward to meeting with President @MichaelDHiggins, Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar, and Tanaiste @SimonCoveney while celebrating my Irish roots!”

The White House said that during his trip to Ireland, the vice president would voice the United States’s “commitment to maintaining peace, prosperity, and stability in Ireland by upholding the Good Friday Agreement”.

He would also discuss trade, investment and strengthening the economic relationship between the two nations.

The announcement of the visit came after the speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi warned there was “no chance” of a US-UK trade deal if Brexit jeopardised the peace accord in Northern Ireland.

She said the Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, would block the deal in Congress if the EU departure “undermines” the agreement.

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Donald Trump, right, visited Ireland for the first time as president earlier this year and met with Leo Varadkar (Liam McBurney/PA)

The vice president’s trip comes three months after Mr Trump visited Ireland for the first time as president.

His visit was met with protests in Dublin and in Shannon.

The Pence family visits Ireland regularly, but Mr Pence himself has not visited since becoming vice president.

Mr Pence’s mother, Nancy, is a first-generation Irish-American.

The Indiana native’s ancestors on his mother’s side came from Doonbeg, in Co Clare, the same village where Mr Trump owns a golf course.

Mr Pence also has ancestors from Tubbercurry, Co Sligo.

In March, Mr Varadkar and his partner Dr Matt Barrett met with the vice president at his official residence in Washington DC as part of his annual St Patrick’s Day tour to the US.

It came after 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.

During the visit to Mr Pence’s home, Mr Varadkar said he was not judged by his sexual orientation but by his political actions.

Mr Pence is a controversial figure and has been particularly criticised over his stance on LGBTQ rights.

Mr Varadkar is Ireland’s first openly gay leader and one of very few openly gay national leaders in the world.

PA

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