Conor McGregor and Irish premier lead St Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago
The former UFC champion marched through the streets of the Windy City alongside Leo Varadkar on Saturday.
MMA star Conor McGregor and Irish premier Leo Varadkar have led the St Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago.
The former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion wore a green sash with his own name emblazoned on it as he marched through the streets of the Windy City on Saturday alongside Mr Varadkar.
Mr Varadkar confirmed he was not aware the mixed martial arts star was taking part in the parade.
Mr McGregor was arrested and charged with robbery in Miami earlier this week after allegedly stamping on a fan’s mobile phone.
Asked if he thought it was appropriate to have McGregor officially taking part in the parade and “representing the country”, he said: “I think that’s up to the organisers of the parade to decide who they want to march in the parade.
“I don’t think he was representing the country, that’s kind of what I was doing and that’s why we are here.”
The Taoiseach is in Chicago on the fourth day of his annual St Patrick’s Day tour to the United States.
Mr Varadkar later boarded a boat for the Tourism Ireland cruise on the Chicago River.
In keeping with tradition, the river was dyed green for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Speaking on board the boat, Mr Varadkar said: “It’s an enormous privilege for Ireland to have special access to the United States, the most important and most powerful country in the world, because of our diaspora of 30 million people here who claim Irish heritage.”
He said that the strength of the Irish diaspora has been important to Ireland, particularly for the Good Friday Agreement.
“It’s really important to us now as we face difficulties around Brexit, that the Irish voice and concerns are heard in the corridors of powers,” he concluded.
On Friday evening Mr Varadkar said US president Donald Trump could visit Ireland as early as June as part of his trip to Europe.
Mr Varadkar said “it would be most likely” that Mr Trump would visit Ireland when he travels to Europe for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings later this year.
It comes after the US president confirmed he wanted to make the trip during a meeting with Mr Varadkar in the Oval Office in the White House on Thursday.
“He (Mr Trump) is going to travel to Europe for the D-Day anniversary and for the Nato anniversary so it’s possible that he’ll make the trip to Ireland before or after one of those but it’s still early days yet,” Mr Varadkar added.
“There’s no firm dates discussed or agreed but he does intend to travel to Europe at least twice between now and the end of the year, it being added on to one of those visits would be most likely.”
One of Mr Trump’s golf courses is in the County Clare village of Doonbeg.
On Thursday, Mr Varadkar and his partner met with US vice president Mike Pence at his official residence in Washington DC.
In a speech, Mr Varadkar said that he is not judged by his sexual orientation but by his political actions.
Speaking in Chicago on Friday, Mr Varadkar said that while he did not discuss his speech with Mr Pence, they had a “good chat” about various issues.
“Obviously we have very different views on social policy but I think the best way to manage these things is to engage with people,” he added.
During a speech at the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago dinner on Friday evening, Mr Varadkar said that immigrants from all countries and religions have helped build the United States.
“But sometimes as well they were scapegoats and blamed for things that went wrong just because of where they came from and because of their religion,” he added.
“We saw an example of that in New Zealand yesterday.
“For us in Ireland we believe the time has come for us to play a greater role in the world 100 years after independence.
“We really want to share our culture and share our identity.
“It’s a pleasure to be here to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with you all.”
Governor of Illinois J B Pritzker paid tribute to the Irish immigrants who travelled to the US during the potato famine in the 1840s.
He added: “We would do well to remember those who immigrated to this country during the Irish potato famine, those who faced their share of prejudice and discrimination but persevered, taking the jobs that were available to them and working hard to build a better life for themselves and for their families.
“There are Irish-American descendants who would go on to become our teachers, our nurses, our police officers, our firefighters and our presidents of the United States.
“They educate our young and care for our sick, contributing to our culture and character as a nation.”
The Tourism Ireland cruise marked the end of the Taoiseach’s official engagements in the US.
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