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Obama urges civility in politics, celebrates Ireland at luncheon with Ryan

By Geordan Tilley, Medill News Service
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U.S. President Barack Obama makes comments at a Friends of Ireland luncheon on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Obama called for civility in politics at the luncheon. Pool Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/ee1efc26ec6cdca32f97d0e0150b86ee/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
U.S. President Barack Obama makes comments at a Friends of Ireland luncheon on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Obama called for civility in politics at the luncheon. Pool Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

Washington, D.C., March 15 -- Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny joined U.S. President Barack Obama at the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon in the Capitol on Tuesday, hosted by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Sporting a green tie, Ryan proudly told of his Irish heritage and entertained the crowd with Irish jokes before saying that only the strongest people can "poke fun at [someone] and then break bread with them."

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The president brought up his own Irish roots, joking that no one ever sought his birth certificate to prove his share of Irish heritage.

Obama also spent some time bringing the conversation back home. He implored Americans to keep the inflammatory rhetoric on the campaign trail and violent flare-ups at rallies from becoming the new norm.

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"Kindness brings kindness," Obama said. "Animosity brings animosity."

He said Americans should strive to set a positive example for their children; politics should not be any different.

"Speaker Ryan and I may not always agree on policy," Obama said, "but I don't have a bad word to say about him as a man."

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But the main focus stayed on the celebration. Attendees toasted to the friendship between the two countries with Guinness Stout twice, the first at the end of Ryan's speech and the second at the close of Obama's. "Slainte!"

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Kenny also spoke, stressing the significance of Ireland's friendship with the United States.

After the luncheon, Kenny headed down Pennsylvania Avenue to join Obama at the White House for the annual shamrock ceremony, where he presented the president with a bowl of shamrocks.

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Kenny's visit to Washington was abbreviated this year, so he can return to Ireland as the country is in the middle of selecting its next prime minister. No party won an outright majority in Thursday's election, so Kenny, a leader of Fine Gael, is staying on as Taoiseach while the country's two main parties negotiate to see if a coalition government is possible.

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