Biden expresses ‘strong support’ for Belfast Agreement in meeting with Martin

US president tells Taoiseach of ‘deep affection that we Americans have for Ireland and the people of Ireland’

US president Joe Biden spoke in glowing terms of his relationship with Ireland during the bilateral meeting with Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Video: RTÉ

 

US president Joe Biden expressed “strong support” for the Belfast Agreement in a virtual meeting on St Patrick’s Day with Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Speaking at an online press event before the meeting, he said political and economic stability in Northern Ireland was in all our interests.

Mr Biden said he looked forward to hosting the Taoiseach in person in Washington next year.

The president confirmed that the White House would be illuminated in green on Wednesday night to “celebrate the deep deep affection Americans have, particularly Irish Americans, for Ireland”.

He spoke of his Irish ancestors, including Ambrose Finnegan, who was a footballer and a newspaper man. He recalled how he would tell the young Biden: “Joey remember, the best drop of blood in you is Irish.”

The president recalled his first visit to Ireland to see the land of his ancestors.

Mr Martin told the president that the people of Ireland are “so proud of your election” as a “proud son of Ireland”.

“I can think of no better day for me to have the great pleasure to extend to you their warmest greetings,” he said.

“It feels strange to have to celebrate 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, and this year because of the pandemic, it just simply isn’t possible.

“Here in Ireland people are marking the occasion in their homes but they will be thinking especially of their loved ones around the world and sending them best thoughts and wishes. They will do so in the hope that next year will be better, as I and you believe it will.

US president Joe Biden references the ceremonial bowl of of shamrock from Ireland and its significance. Photograph: Getty
US president Joe Biden references the ceremonial bowl of shamrock from Ireland and its significance. Photograph: Getty
US vice-president Kamala Harris said she looked forward to hosting the Taoiseach in person next year. Photograph: AFP
US vice-president Kamala Harris said she looked forward to hosting the Taoiseach in person next year. Photograph: AFP

“With each person vaccinated we move closer to the day that people can meet each other, hug each other and celebrate again.

“I greatly look forward to you being able to visit Ireland as you have done so many times and so memorably before. I also 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, a symbol of the good times we have shared and the challenges we have endured, always at each other’s side.

“The green shoots point to the brighter future that I know lies ahead.

“Building that better future will of course be part of what we discuss today.”

Earlier meeting with Harris

Earlier vice-president Kamala Harris said that the relationship between Ireland and the US remains strong as she hosted Taoiseach Micheál Martin for a virtual meeting in the White House.

“Happy St Patrick’s Day on behalf of our country. As you know, our country has a long history, of friendship, of shared values and culture,” she said.

She said that, of her many responsibilities as vice-president, she was very excited to participate in the annual st Patrick’s Day breakfast.

“I only wish that it were in person, but we can hope for next year that we can share a good breakfast together.”

Speaking in the vice-president’s ceremonial office in the executive office next to the West Wing, Ms Harris said that looked forward to hosting the Taoiseach in person next year.

“On behalf of the president I would like to thank Ireland for advancing our shared values as a member of the United Nations Security Council and also thank you for our robust economic partnership,” she said, noting that she hails from California.

“We take great pride in what we have created around technology. And we have great admiration for the work you’re doing in Ireland and the partnership we share.”

Mr Martin began his comments by offering Ireland’s condolences to America for the shootings overnight in Atlanta. He referenced the election of Mary Robinson as the first female president of Ireland and said she was elected “by the women of Ireland”.

The Taoiseach said he hoped to welcome Ms Harris to Ireland as vice-president.

“You would be most welcome. We know the ties between our nations are rich and they are deep.”

Mr Martin also referenced Stripe, the online payments company founded by the Collison brothers, with dual headquarters in Dublin and San Francisco.

He also spoke about Kay Kennedy, an Irish woman from Meath, who was the first woman to run for state office in California in the late 19th century. Additional reporting. – Additional reporting PA