US President Joe Biden has said that Ireland has "taken a hit" for stepping up to help those who are in need as a result of the war in Ukraine.

In the absence of the Taoiseach, who is self-isolating in Blair House with Covid-19, Ireland's Ambassador in the US Dan Mulhall represented the country at the Speaker’s Lunch at Capitol Hill, which is a part of St Patrick’s Day festivities.

"Everybody talks about Germany having stepped up and changed motions about being more leaning forward and they have, so has Ireland, a neutral country," said Mr Biden.

"Ireland has stepped up and taken a hit for what they’re doing.

The US President paid a tribute to Ireland’s efforts to help the crisis in Ukraine by taking in over 7,000 refugees at a bilateral meeting with the Taoiseach and addressing the lunch event.

Mr Biden also called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "murderous dictator" and a "pure thug".

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also addressed the event, paying tribute to the Taoiseach for his role in "promoting peace" in Ukraine.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald and MLA Michelle O’Neill also attended the lunch in Capitol Hill.

Earlier today, a virtual bilateral meeting took place between Mr Biden and Mr Martin.

Micheál Martin pictured in Washington DC yesterday

The pair discussed a number of topics, including the conflict in Ukraine, the pandemic and the Good Friday Agreement.

"The United States stands ready to work with all the communities of Northern Ireland to ensure its extraordinary economic potential and ensure that it's realised, and we look forward to supporting the next Northern Ireland Executive after the upcoming Assembly elections, which are on their way," Mr Biden said of the Good Friday Agreement later in the day.

Mr Biden said he regretted they could not meet in person.

'Changed utterly'

Quoting WB Yeats, Mr Biden described the impact the Russian invasion of Ukraine has had on the world.

"All changed, changed utterly - a terrible beauty has been born," he told the Taoiseach.

Mr Biden said Irish leadership on the issue has been "noticeable and impressive".

The Taoiseach spoke about the need for a "unity of purpose".

US President Joe Biden speaks at the Ireland Funds 30th National Gala

The US leader praised the willingness of Ireland to take in refugees, adding: "What Ireland is doing now, what you are doing, taking in Ukrainian refugees, speak so loudly about your principles.

"And it's amazing and I want to publicly compliment you for it.

"I think you've already brought in over 7,000 or so refugees from Ukraine, and you're prepared to do more. So thank you."

The Taoiseach told Mr Biden: "Ireland stands ready to do everything we possibly can on the humanitarian front and in supporting the broadest and widest sanctions possible to keep the pressure on and to get this war ended."

He also thanked Mr Biden for US support for the Good Friday Agreement.

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He praised the "steadfast support", referencing how "important the Good Friday Agreement is in respect of stability and peace on the island of Ireland".

"Over the last number of days as I've been here we've also witnessed, once again, that two-way, very robust economic relationship between the United States and Ireland."

Mr Martin, appearing virtually for the second year in a row due to the Covid-19 pandemic, said it was unfortunate.

"This year, we're meeting virtually across the road, so we're getting closer," he joked.

The Taoiseach's positive result was discovered on the eve of his planned meeting in the Oval Office with President Biden.

The announcement was made in dramatic circumstances at the Ireland Funds Gala dinner in Washington DC.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi was about to make an award to the Taoiseach, but instead Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhall stepped onto the stage and explained to the 700 guests that the Taoiseach had tested positive for Covid-19.

He had taken a test ahead of the traditional St Patrick's Day meeting with the president in the Oval Office, after a member of his delegation tested positive.

A virtual bilateral meeting took place between Mr Biden and Mr Martin

Possible Martin will miss EU meeting

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has this evening confirmed he will remain in the US for "the next while" following his Covid-19 diagnosis.

Speaking to reporters, he said he would chair next week's Cabinet meeting from the Irish Embassy in Washington.

He it was "very much a possibility" that he would miss the European Council meeting in Brussels next Thursday and Friday, though he had not worked out the full implications of the diagnosis.

"I feel good, of course I'm disappointed personally, but it's not the end of the world and we have to keep things in perspective," said the Taoiseach.

"Thanks be to God, we have the quality of video conferencing that we now have and the capacity to have these meetings. I don't believe that the meeting [with Joe Biden] was in any way impaired as a result of this. In fact, it was a very warm meeting and it went on longer perhaps than anticipated by officials on both sides, but it was a good, warm, personal conversation and engagement."

The Taoiseach said "in terms of the next while, obviously I will be here, we had a Cabinet meeting which I chaired from the [Irish] embassy at the commencement of the week, and little did I think that I'd have another Cabinet meeting from here next week, but that's the way it is and I will continue to work and we will manage this, and I will be in daily contact with my colleagues and also with my officials, particularly in respect of the humanitarian response to the Ukrainian crisis back home, so I will keep working.

"I feel good and will also take it day by day and step by step."

In terms of a US Presidential visit to Ireland, Mr Martin said: "We didn't get specifics on that, but he is anxious to come to Ireland and I think when the opportunity arises, I think he take that up."

He said they discussed the bilateral relationship and particularly the economic relationship between Ireland and the US, he said they spoke about getting feedback from companies located in the US and Ireland where they want greater mobility for workers, and also increasing the number of graduate and internship programmes so there are more channels for young Irish and Americans to relocate.