US President Joe Biden has voiced his strong support for the Good Friday Agreement, in a virtual St Patrick's Day meeting with Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Mr Biden told Mr Martin that the White House will be lit up in green tonight to "celebrate the deep, deep affection Americans, particularly Irish Americans, for Ireland."
The US President also spoke about his Irish roots and previous visits to Ireland. "I wondered why we left in the first place," he joked.
"Irish Americans think they’re more Irish than the Irish," he said, adding "we Irish are the only people who are nostalgic for the future.
Joe Biden says he strongly supports the Good Friday Agreement. He adds that he is committed to health, particularly cancer research and development. Mr Biden's Mayo relatives dedicated a facility to his son Beau, who died of cancer, he says. | Read: https://t.co/J6eqAxaFW5 pic.twitter.com/5WTF7U0rk3— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 17, 2021
The Taoiseach extended best wishes to the President and made reference to the shamrock bowl that had been placed on the table in front of him.
"For now the shamrock bowl in front of you... has green shoots that point to a brighter future ahead"
He thanked the president for his "unwavering support" for the Good Friday agreement.
Micheál Martin says the policies of the Irish and US governments are closely aligned. He says he wants to work with the US on issues such as recovery from the pandemic and climate. He thanks Joe Biden for his support of the Good Friday Agreement. | Read: https://t.co/J6eqAxaFW5 pic.twitter.com/LcoAmhTCZh— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 17, 2021
On Covid-19 vaccines, the Taoiseach said: "I look forward to exploring 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."
Taoiseach Micheál Martin tells Joe Biden the people of Ireland were 'so proud' of his election as US President. The bowl of shamrock is a symbol of the undying friendship between Ireland and the USA, he says. | Read: https://t.co/J6eqAxaFW5 pic.twitter.com/o1cP7Ac9TW— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 17, 2021
President Biden said Ireland and the United States have a "robust agenda" including combatting Covid-19, strengthening global health security, discussions on economic co-operation and Ireland's leadership on the UN security council.
"You know my view, and the view of my predecessor of the Obama/Biden administration, on the Good Friday Agreement, we strongly support them, we think it's critically important they be maintained and the political and economic stability of Northern Ireland is very much in the interest of all of our people," he said.
President Biden also referred to the two countries working together on cancer research.
"Everything between Ireland and the United States runs deep, our joys, our sorrows, our passion, our drive, our unrelenting optimism and hope," he said.
The Taoiseach held a lengthy hour and 20 minute virtual meeting with Mr Biden, during which they talked about Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement, Covid-19, economic recovery, climate change and immigration reform.
The Taoiseach said when it came to Covid-19 vaccine supply, the US President said he hopes to know by the summer "where things will stand" regarding the vaccination of the US population and only then will be able to address how it can help other countries.
Asked if he asked directly for the US to give Covid-19 vaccines to Ireland, Mr Martin said that the US does not "have a stockpile" to share.
Asked about the deteriorating diplomatic relationship between the UK and the EU, the Taoiseach called for a "proper engagement" on the issue of the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying Ireland's considered view is that vaccine supply-lines should be kept open.
He said: "I don't personally like blocking - but I will articulate my views at EU [leaders] Council."
The Taoiseach said if the clotting concerns regarding AstraZenenica are satisfactorily resolved tomorrow "we will be able to catch-up."
He added that the Health Service Executive will do everything it can to "operationalise" such a decision, but warned it may take "some time."
US commitment to Ireland 'steadfast and strong' - Harris
Earlier, US Vice President Kamala Harris told the Taoiseach that her country's commitment to Ireland "remains steadfast and strong".
Mr Martin also held talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during which Brexit, Northern Ireland, immigration and E3 visas were discussed, before his meeting with Vice President Harris.
A bust of the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass was placed in the Vice President's office for the meeting, and both she and the Taoiseach made reference to the Douglass’ legacy and his trip to Ireland.
The Taoiseach, referencing the fact that Vice President Harris is from California, spoke about the success of the Irish-founded payments firm Stripe.
The meeting began with the Vice President making remarks on last night's shooting in Atlanta in which eight people were killed and which she described as tragic. The Taoiseach also extended his condolences.
Ms Harris told Mr Martin that her country's commitment to Ireland "remains steadfast and strong".
She spoke of her regret that they were not able to meet in person for the traditional annual shamrock presentation and expressed hope that next year they will "share a good breakfast together".Mr Martin told Ms Harris the ties between the two nations are "rich" and "deep".
He also congratulated her as the first female US president vice president, adding "you may be the first woman in your role, but you will not be the last".
"I hope that I will have the opportunity to welcome you to Ireland too during your time as Vice President," he said. "I look forward to our discussions, but, most of all, I am delighted to have this opportunity to get to know you and to wish you a very happy St Patrick's Day."
Great to meet @SpeakerPelosi today to thank her for her continued support for the Good Friday Agreement and on Brexit.— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) March 17, 2021
Also discussed immigration - creating pathways to citizenship for the undocumented and the E3 visa. pic.twitter.com/kFC4txtwky
Today @JoeBiden & I welcomed a new poetic partnership between our nations.— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) March 17, 2021
To mark the occasion, here is a special recitation of one of the President's favorite poems by three gifted young Irish and American students: Brayden Harrington, Jessica Militante & Michael Tient. pic.twitter.com/SFVwz9atUy
President Biden and Vice President Harris also held a virtual meeting with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill.
Speaking following the call, Ms O’Neill said the meeting was "hugely beneficial", as both Mr Biden and Ms Harris reaffirmed their "unequivocal support for the Irish peace process and full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement".
"I thanked them both for their continued political support and emphasised the valued role played by the US administration since the Clinton era," Ms O’Neill said.
Later this evening, Mr Martin will speak at a public event hosted by the Congressional Friends of Ireland caucus in association with the Pat and John Hume Foundation and the Embassy of Ireland commemorating Mr Hume and the pivotal role he played in garnering US support for the peace process.
A resolution reaffirming support for the Good Friday Agreement has been introduced in the US Senate ahead of the meeting between the Taoiseach and the US President.
The bipartisan motion calls for the protection of the peace process and states that while it was a historic accomplishment, the work of the Good Friday Agreement remains unfinished and requires renewed attention and action.
The White House has said it is not looking to take sides in the row between the EU and the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
"The Northern Ireland Protocol is something that was legally binding and was agreed to by both sides and there was support for it here as a way to manage the practicalities," a senior Biden administration official said.
Speaking ahead of the virtual meeting between President Biden and the Taoiseach, the official said they were urging the EU and the UK to return to the table.
"We view that as a trade issue to be resolved between the UK and the EU," the official added.
"Our belief is that the path forward needs to be a pragmatic one that provides political stability and prosperity for all the people in Northern Ireland."
Asked if the US was planning to appoint a Northern Ireland Envoy, the official said that while they had not yet made any personnel decisions in that regard, the administration will continue to remain very engaged in Northern Ireland.
Additional reporting Paul Cunningham