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Obama uses St. Pat's Day to air Ireland visit

President Obama chose St. Patrick's Day to announce that he's adding Ireland to the itinerary for his trip to Europe in May.

Obama made the announcement as he welcomed new Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny to the White House for an annual ceremony of Irish-American solidarity.

He joked that Vice President Biden was "envious because he wants to go first."

The president said Ireland is "bouncing back" from its economic crisis and that Kenny had shared his economic recovery plans with Obama.

Kenny said Ireland was "open for business" and that Obama's plans to visit represent "a significant statement of confidence" in the country.

Obama already had announced plans to make a state visit to Britain from May 24 to 26, just ahead of the G-8 summit in France.

The prime minister began his day with breakfast at the vice president's residence and had lunch with Obama, Biden and congressional leaders at the Capitol, where the entertainment included an Air Force bagpipe band.

At the luncheon, Obama joked about his Irish ancestry -- pointing to a great-great-great-grandfather on his mother's side from Moneygall -- and said the meal set a good bipartisan tone.

Kenny, who took office last week, also was meeting with congressional leaders and potential business investors during his two-day visit to Washington.

In Manhattan, meanwhile, a sea of green filled Fifth Avenue on Thursday, marking the life of Ireland's patron saint with the biggest St. Patrick's Day parade in America and the 250th in New York City. The parade stepped off at 11 a.m. on Fifth Avenue at 44th Street led by best-selling author Mary Higgins Clark as grand marshal.

Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan and his predecessor Cardinal Edward Egan greeted Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral at 50th Street.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg got a less-than-warm welcome at a St. Patrick's Day parade in Queens. Some paradegoers were angry about the mayor's joke last month that he usually saw "people that are totally inebriated" at the American Irish Historical Society in Manhattan. Bloomberg apologized shortly after making the comment.

Asked about the matter again before Thursday's parade, Bloomberg said, "I told a joke some people didn't find funny. But the reception I got so far puts a smile on my face."

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