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Monday 29 May 2023 Dublin: 16°C
# White House
Taoiseach tests positive for Covid-19 while in Washington for St Patrick's events
Micheál Martin received a negative antigen test result but later tested positive on a PCR.

LAST UPDATE | Mar 17th 2022, 6:00 AM

Political Correspondent Christina Finn reporting from the United States. 

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has tested positive for Covid-19 and his meeting with US President Joe Biden in the White House is not likely to take place today.

It is understood that today’s St Patrick’s Day events with the US president will now go ahead virtually, effectively a copy of last year’s virtual conference, which took place due to the pandemic.  

Martin tested negative on an antigen test after he was alerted that a member of his delegation had received a positive result.

However, a follow-up PCR test came back positive for the Taoiseach. 

The Taoiseach had also received a negative PCR test result on Sunday, taken before traveling to the US.

A government spokesperson has said they are now exploring alternatives to the in-person programme of events.

The Taoiseach is understood to be feeling well and is currently self isolating on public health advice in Blair House, a residence which is opposite the White House.

The announcement of the positive test was made at the Ireland Funds Award ceremony last night in Washington DC where the Taoiseach was due to receive a leadership award.

The Irish ambassador to the US, Dan Mulhall, made the announcement at the gala event, when he had to step in and accept a leadership award on behalf of the Taoiseach.

It’s also unclear whether he will be able to continue with other planned events this week, such as the Covid commemoration event in Dublin on Sunday.

The Taoiseach was already in attendance at the dinner this evening, and seated beside Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi before the result of his second Covid test came through.

During the event, the Taoiseach and his staff abruptly left the event when the result came through.

taoiseach-visit-to-the-us PA Taoiseach speaking with with US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at the Ireland Funds 30th National Gala at the National Building Museum in Washington DC earlier in the night. PA

As is traditional before the Taoiseach’s visit with the US president, he is staying in Blair House, literally across the street from the White House.

The news of the positive Covid result came after US President Biden addressed the event.

He said Ireland is a “country with a past that tugs at our hearts and a future that’s going to change the world, remembering his ancestors who left Co Mayo and Co Louth 165 years ago.

“The Blewitts and the Finnegans eventually settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania. And that’s where my parents met and we’re married.

“And it was in Scranton, where I was born, that I inherited my mother’s side of the family’s overwhelming pride, overwhelming pride in being Irish,” he said.

He highlighted the unique bond between Ireland and the US, stating: “Everything between us runs deep, the literature, the poetry, the sadness, the joy, most of all our resilience. Despite everything we’ve never stopped being dreamers and I think we Irish the only people in the world who actually are nostalgic for the future.”

President Biden added: “While terrible things have happened on both sides of our shores, violence, civil unrest, racial and religious discrimination, we are nations and people that are self reflective and self corrective nations where hope runs deep, and optimism reigns, optimism that’s brave and digs deep.

“My mother used to have an expression for real, say: ‘Joe, remember, as long as you’re alive, you have an obligation to strive. And you’re not dead to see in the face of God’. That was our anthem.He went on to describe Ireland as “a global force in culture and in the arts, leaders on the world stage, members of the United Nations Security Council, a country with a past that tugs at our hearts in the future that’s going to shape the world.”

President Biden remembered his trip to Ireland in 2016 with fondness, joking that the honorary doctorate he received from Trinity College Dublin meant he caught up with his wife Dr Jill Biden.

Turning to world events, President Biden said: “At this time, our time, we see more change and challenge, I believe, than anytime in generations. A once in a century pandemic, economic unease and anxiety, an existential threat, a climate crisis. And what we see today in Ukraine, an unprovoked war of aggression, and the vicious vicious vicious treatment of Ukrainian people, the bombing hospitals and homes and nurseries.

“But I also see the strength, necessity and endurance of democracy,” he said.

Earlier Wednesday night, the Taoiseach had a phone call with US Vice President Kamala Harris about Ukraine and the value of nations standing against Russia. 

Martin had a 20-minute phone conversation with Harris who praised Ireland’s humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine. 

They discussed the sacrifice and courage of people in Ukraine, and also talked about Zelenskyy’s call with the Taoiseach and the Ukrainian president’s address to US Congress earlier today

They spoke about the value of the EU, US, UK and other nations standing against Russia.

Harris is also said to have offered unequivocal support for the Good Friday Agreement and, more generally, the unity of democracies across the world against authoritarianism. 

It was reported yesterday that Martin would no longer attend the St Patrick’s Day breakfast at Kamala Harris’ residence after her husband tested positive for Covid-19.

The US second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, tested positive, but Harris herself was testing negative, the White House said. 

It is tradition during the annual St Patrick’s Day trip to Washington DC for the Taoiseach to have breakfast with the Vice President.

There was some controversy surrounding the breakfast at the Vice President’s house in recent years. 

In 2018, breaking with the tradition of allowing the media access to the conversation, the press were left on the lawn of the Vice President’s home. 

At the time, the then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was the US administration that made the decision to have the meeting in private. Prior to the meeting, Varadkar repeatedly said he would talk with Pence about social issues, including LGBT rights. 

The following year, in 2019, Varadkar’s partner Matt Barrett was invited to attend the St Patrick’s Day celebrations at Pence’s house. 

The US ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin has also confirmed that she has tested positive for Covid-19 and will therefore also be unable to attend the St Patrick’s Day events at Capitol Hill and the White House.

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