St. Patrick’s Day

Leaders on Steps

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Speaker Boehner

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Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill

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A luncheon in honor of the Irish holiday

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner hosted President Barack Obama and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny at the Capitol on Friday for a St. Patrick’s Day lunch—a tradition that goes back 30 years.

In 1983, then-Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill hosted the first Friends of Ireland luncheon, inviting President Ronald Reagan and other members of Congress to join him for a bipartisan meal.

Thus began an annual tradition. But it wasn’t the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the Capitol. In 1884, lawmakers wore green ribbons—distributed by then-Rep. John O’Neill—in honor of the Irish holiday, according to the History, Art & Archives website.

The speaker’s website has a slide show of photos from the past St. Patrick’s Day luncheons.