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Taoiseach Micheál Martin during today's speech to the IIEA. IIEA
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Taoiseach says 'virus will dictate' if he can make St Patrick's day trip to White House

Micheál Martin says it’s ‘early days’ but that Covid-19 is causing problems for bilateral meetings.

LAST UPDATE | 15 Jan 2021

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has cast doubt on the annual St. Patrick’s Day trip to the White House saying that “the virus could dictate a lot of that”. 

Martin made the comments during an address to the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) in which he said that Ireland should “look forward greatly” to Joe Biden’s presidency. 

The Taoiseach said that “the eyes of the world” are on the transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration following what he described as the “appalling events of last week in Washington”. 

Asked about the annual visit by the Taoiseach and ministers to the US capital, Martin said it could not be confirmed as yet. 

I think obviously the course of the of the virus could dictate a lot of that. When I invited President Biden to Ireland he said “try and keep me out”, so it won’t be out of a lack of enthusiasm on his part. But we have to practical about it, it’s early days yet and Covid will have a significant impact on all bilateral contacts and meetings in the coming way.

Echoing previous comments he made to TheJournal.ie, Martin said that Biden wanted to “rapidly reset that relationship with Europe” 

The Taoiseach said that said that many of Biden’s team are “well known to us” and that “we will be starting from a point of mutual friendship and respect”. 

He said that Biden has been a “stalwart friend of Ireland” and that he “spoke passionately about his Irish heritage” during their phone call after his election win. 

Earlier this week, Biden named Dublin-born former UN ambassador Samantha Power to lead the US foreign aid agency and also picked Irish-American Marty Walsh as his Labour secretary

Brexit

Speaking at length about Brexit, both the 2016 vote and its effects, the Taoiseach said it was based on “40 years of English Euroscepticism” and that the debate was “not informed by the reality of what was being proposed”.

We reject the false idea of sovereignty is compromised by respecting common policies and the rule of law within the union. In fact, is an essential enabler of sovereignty. It was once said that a small country is one which has to worry about its existence. If looked at that way, membership of the union has been an unprecedented act of guaranteeing the sovereignty of one’s vulnerable states.

Speaking about the current situation, Martin addressed concerns that have been raised about supply chain issues in Northern Ireland as a result of the ending of the post-Brexit transitionary period. 

NI Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots yesterday blamed Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol for potential food shortages and singled out the Irish government, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance Party for criticism.

Martin said today the debate needed to be “depoliticised”:

Potentially, due to continued access to obviously the UK market and the European Union Single Market,  it represents a very significant opportunity for Northern Ireland, I still believe that.

“I think what’s critical is we, as rapidly as we can, depoliticise the Brexit debate now and get on with the pragmatic working out and operationalising of the protocol, trying to simplify and ease the trading environment for all of the companies and businesses involved.”

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