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Annual St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Gift Highlights Relationship Between Ireland and the United States and the Importance of Plant Health

Posted by Lucero Hernandez, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in Plants
Mar 18, 2021
President Joe Biden meets virtually with Ireland Prime Minister Micheál Martin on St. Patrick's Day
President Joe Biden meets virtually with Ireland Prime Minister Micheál Martin on St. Patrick's Day.

The spirit of The International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) was in full force this St. Patrick’s Day when President Joe Biden was presented with a shamrock bowl by the Irish Taoiseach (Irish for “chief or leader” – pronounced “tee-shuhk”), Micheál Martin, on March 17, 2021 at the White House. The shamrock bowl was delivered to the White House earlier in the week and presented to President Biden virtually. The tradition of this annual gift from the people of Ireland started in the early 1950s when Ireland’s first Ambassador, John J. Hearne, sent a small box of shamrocks to President Harry Truman.

“The International Year of Plant Health has been widely celebrated in Ireland. This year serves to remind people here and all over the world of the importance of plants and the recognition that plants make up 80% of the food we eat and produce 98% of the oxygen we breathe,” said Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland to the United States of America. “Although most Irish people live in towns and cities, we still see the countryside as our spiritual home. We have a very close relationship with the land,” said Ambassador Mulhall.

Bowl of Shamrock presented to President Joe Biden by Ireland Prime Minister Micheál Martin
Bowl of Shamrock presented to President Joe Biden by Ireland Prime Minister Micheál Martin.

To meet U.S. import requirements, the shamrock arrived in the United States with a phytosanitary certificate from Ireland’s national plant protection organization, the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine, indicating a status of pest-free. The certificate reaffirms the United States and Ireland’s shared commitment to protecting plant health across our borders.

“Every day our employees protect America’s crops and forests. They serve an important role in safeguarding American agriculture and natural resources from invasive plant pests and diseases,” said Dr. Osama El-Lissy, the Deputy Administrator of USDA APHIS’ Plant Protection and Quarantine program.

The shamrock presented to President Biden was grown by Mr. Joe Sugrue at his family-run nursery in Ballinskelligs, County Kerry, Ireland. For more than two decades, the Sugrue family has provided shamrock for the St. Patrick’s Day presentation at the White House.

“The USDA is honored to play a role in facilitating the arrival of shamrock to our country every year. These lovely green plants are healthy, safe and ready for the White House,” concluded Dr. El-Lissy.

Category/Topic: Plants

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