Taoiseach and Biden to hold virtual meeting on St Patrick’s Day
Series of 78 country-specific ‘virtual receptions’ will be held, department says
Taoiseach Micheál Martin will also speak with US vice-president Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. File photograph: Julien Behal
Virtual meetings with US president Joe Biden, vice-president Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will headline Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s programme for this year’s stay-at-home St Patrick’s Day.
A year after then taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the first lockdown from Washington where he was visiting former president Donald Trump, pandemic restrictions mean that all St Patrick’s Day meetings and events are being held virtually, with no ministerial visits and no White House celebrations.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said a series of 78 country-specific “virtual receptions” would be held by embassies and consulates and broadcast around the world. Incorporating a range of artistic performances, they will include messages from the Taoiseach and the head of mission. Embassies are also organising additional events, including a series of “fireside chats” between Ministers and local business, political and community leaders.
The virtual meeting with Mr Biden will take place on St Patrick’s Day (Wednesday), and officials said the two men would discuss a variety of subjects.
In an interview on CBS News’s Face the Nation on Sunday Mr Martin said the issue of Northern Ireland would be discussed at the meeting.
“We want to see a continuation of the president’s interest in Ireland, support for the Good Friday Agreement and also of upholding the Brexit agreement itself,” he said. “I’ve no doubt that the president will continue that interest and will use his good offices and the administration’s good offices to bring the right outcomes here. I am under no illusions of the significance of the American involvement and engagement with all sides and all traditions and perspectives.”
Mr Martin will also meet Ms Harris on Wednesday following which there will be an engagement with the inaugural class of Frederick Douglass Global Fellows, named after the anti-slavery campaigner and friend of Daniel O’Connell who visited Ireland 175 years ago. The programme will see 20 American students from minority backgrounds visit Ireland later this year.
Later that day, Mr Martin will meet Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and members of the US Congress Friends of Ireland caucus, who mark their 40th anniversary on St Patrick’s Day.
The Taoiseach’s programme of Washington events begins on Monday with an address to the leading think-tank, the Brookings Institution.
Later he will attend the US launch of a book about the Kennedys and take part in a discussion with Samantha Power, former US ambassador to the UN and Biden administration nominee to lead USAID; congressman Richie Neal, co-chairman of the Friends of Ireland caucus; and the former Massachusetts congressman and Kennedy family member Joe Kennedy III. In the evening, he will address the St Patrick’s Day celebration of the Boston Irish American Partnership.
On Tuesday, Mr Martin will focus on the US-Ireland economic relationship with a series of meetings hosted by the US chamber of commerce, Enterprise Ireland, and the IDA, as well as meeting senior US and Irish executives.
Later that evening, the Taoiseach will speak at a public event hosted by the congressional Friends of Ireland caucus commemorating John Hume and the pivotal role he played in garnering US support for the peace process.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has a series of engagements designed to foster business links with Ireland with audiences in India, China, Australia and the European Union on Monday and Tuesday. On Tuesday, he will also have online meetings with governor Gavin Newsom of California and a number of companies based in the San Francisco Bay Area, while on St Patrick’s Day he will join Washington state lieutenant governor Denny Heck for a discussion with companies based in the Seattle area.
There is a strong cultural element to many of the virtual events. In London, fiddle player Aoife Ní Bhriain would lead a “supergroup” of Irish and British musicians in a selection of traditional Irish tunes, recorded live at the embassy, the Department of Foreign Affairs said. In Washington on Wednesday, the embassy will host a gathering entitled Shades of Green, which will include “a poetic tribute to president Joe Biden”.