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Obama Celebrates St. Patrick's Day with Irish Leaders


Millions of Americans of Irish descent and millions more who are not joined Tuesday in celebration of St. Patrick's Day, the national holiday of Ireland. U.S. President Barack Obama led the festivities at the White House, where he met with Ireland's Prime Minister, Brian Cowen.

President Obama speaks often of his American mother and his Kenyan father.

It turns out that he is also Irish. "My mother's family can be traced back to Ireland," he said.

His roots go back to the same county that is home to Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen. And as the two met at the White House for the first time, Mr. Obama spoke of a common bond.

"Even if by blood we are not related, by culture and affinity, by friendship and mutual interests we are certainly related," he said.

In keeping with tradition, the leader of the Republic of Ireland presented Mr. Obama with a crystal bowl of shamrocks, the three-leafed clover that is the symbol of Ireland.

But Mr. Cowen made clear that his visit was about more than a celebration of Irish heritage. He talked about the peace process that ended decades of conflict in Northern Ireland between Irish separatists and British forces.

Recently, militants opposed to Northern Ireland's ties to Britain killed a police officer and two soldiers in separate incidents near Belfast.

The prime minister said the Irish people do not support such action. "They have spoken with one voice. They have rejected violence and division. They have stood by peace, reconciliation, democracy and freedom," he said.

After the public appearance with the prime minister, President Obama met privately at the White House with Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and his deputy, Martin McGuiness.

They all attended a St. Patrick's Day luncheon at the U.S. Capitol.

Bagpipes played on the Capitol steps and inside, the president alluded to the recent attacks in Northern Ireland. He said not all Americans are Irish, but all support the cause of peace.

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