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St Patrick's Day

Taoiseach speaks of 'undying friendship' between Ireland and US in virtual meeting with Joe Biden

In a virtual meeting this evening, Martin presented Biden with the traditional bowl of shamrock.

LAST UPDATE | 17 Mar 2021

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has held virtual meetings with US President Joe Biden as well as Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. 

Martin and Biden will be speaking privately as part of a bilateral meeting but the pair also spoke publicly as Biden received the traditional bowl of shamrock in the oval office. 

Biden said that shamrock handover is a “great tradition” that “goes all the way back to Harry Truman”. 

Biden said that the White House is set to be lit up in green to “celebrate the deep, deep affection that we Americans, particularly Irish-Americans, have for Ireland”. 

He referenced his own Irish-American heritage and reiterated his administration’s support for the Good Friday Agreement. 

“We strongly support it and think it’s critically important to maintain. The political and economic stability of Northern Ireland is very much in the interest of all our peoples,” he said.  

Speaking to Biden, Martin first passed his condolences on last night’s mass shooting in Atlanta that left eight people dead

Martin said that the people of Ireland are “so proud of your election as President of the United States of America” and said that it “feels strange” to have to celebrate St. Patrick’s day apart. 

“As you know well, Irish people love to come together to celebrate our heritage and culture with song with dance with parades, with poetry and with pride. This year because of the pandemic, it just simply isn’t possible,” the Taoiseach said. 

He added: “I hope it will not be long before I can visit the United States again. For now, the bowl of shamrock in front of you is a symbol of the undying friendship between our two countries.” 

Speaking about Covid-19 and vaccines, Martin said he looked forward to speaking with Biden about “how we can defeat the Covid-19 virus, working together, urgently to increase the supply of vaccine for our own people and for people around the world.”

The Taoiseach will later brief reporters in Dublin on his discussions with Biden. 

Martin’s virtual meeting with Biden followed similar meetings with Vice President Harris and Speaker Pelosi. 

In remarks released by the Government Press Office, Martin made reference when speaking to Harris to Ireland’s election of its first female president Mary Robinson. 

The Taoiseach said that during her swearing-in in 1990, Robinson quoted Irish poet and Stanford Professor Eavan Boland who observed that she “was determined to write women who had been outside history back into it”. 

Boland passed away aged 75 in April of last year

“Alongside President Biden, your own election, Madame Vice President, has written history at many levels. As you have said, you may be the first woman in your role, but you will not be the last,” Martin said in his opening remarks during the meeting with Harris.

I hope, Madame Vice President, that I will have the opportunity to welcome you to Ireland too during your time as Vice President. You know the ties between our nations are rich and deep.

“The grass on the flag of your own home state of California, on which that famous grizzly bear prowls, is officially an ‘‘Irish green’’. A testament to the immigrants who helped build the Golden State,” the Taoiseach said.

PastedImage-89434 Taoiseach Mícheál Martin on a call with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Twitter / MicheálMartinTD Twitter / MicheálMartinTD / MicheálMartinTD

In his meeting with Pelosi, Martin thanked the Speaker of the House for her “continued support for the Good Friday Agreement and on Brexit” and said their discussions also touched on “creating pathways to citizenship for the undocumented and the E-3 visa”.

Pelosi has been a supporter of Ireland’s Brexit interests in recent years and put pressure on the UK not to breach the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.  

E-3 visas grant people the right to live and work in the US and there have been numerous efforts in recent years to see some set aside for Irish people.

In opening remarks, Martin again quoted Eavan Boland and her poem Quarantine in which she wrote of ‘‘the worst hour of the worst year of the worst season of a whole people.’’

“She was referring to 1847 and ‘‘the Great Hunger’’ which drove so many from Ireland to the seek refuge in the New World, President Biden’s ancestors amongst them. But her words capture, I think, our shared experience these past twelve months,” Martin said to Pelosi. 

For our people on either side of the Atlantic, and across the world, this has been a uniquely difficult year. In normal times, Madam Speaker, we might be gathered today in the Capitol, squeezed together – elbow to elbow almost – around a table with the President, the Vice-President and scores of Congressional leaders, Democrat and Republican. But the times are anything but normal.

After his meeting with Vice President Harris, the two leaders engaged together with a group students who from the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship programme between the US and Ireland. 

NO FEE TAOISEACH VP KAMELA HARRIS JB3 Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking with US Vice President Kamala Harris. Julien Behal Julien Behal

During the afternoon, the Taoiseach will also participate in a memorial to John Hume and will meet with the Congressional Friends of Ireland Caucus.

After meeting with the Taoiseach, Biden will also hold a bilateral meeting with First Minister for Northern Ireland Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

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