A new President and a new Taoiseach met this St Patrick’s Day, as the office holders do every year to discuss the relationship between the United States and Ireland. The pandemic has caused the bilateral meeting between President Joe Biden and Taoiseach Micheál Martin to be held virtually between Washington DC and Dublin.
The tradition of the meeting of the two leaders and the gift of a bowl of Shamrocks from the Taoiseach to the President is one that has taken place since the Presidency of Harry S. Truman in the 1940's. Biden noted that he had the bust of Truman present for the day that was in it.
Controversy erupted in Ireland in February when it was unclear whether the Taoiseach would travel to Washington DC to meet with US leaders, it was later decided that the trip would have to wait until 2022.
The press conference began with Biden discussing the suspected racial attack that resulted in the death of eight in Atlanta, GA. Six of the victims were Asian Americans.
President Biden discussed his Irish heritage which has seemingly shaped his personality. He mentioned his most recent to Ireland when he was Vice-President to Barack Obama, on the trip he traveled to Co. Mayo (Blewitt) and Co. Louth (Finnegan) to see the places where the ancestors on both sides of his family had come from.
Both leaders talked about economic cooperation, climate action, tackling the pandemic with a hands on approach and Ireland taking a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Biden mentioned the cancer research opportunities that the two countries will embark on, mentioning his son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden who passed away from Glioblastoma ( brain cancer ) in 2015.
President Biden and the Taoiseach discussed issues such as the Good Friday Agreement. Biden mentioned that it was important to preserve the peace and economic stability in Northern Ireland, recommitting the US’s interest in preserving the agreement. The US Congress has also passed resolutions recently to say that they are unilaterally committed to preserving the peace agreement and the prevention of the creation of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“We Irish are the only people who are nostalgic for the future” said Biden before ‘yielding the floor’ to Taoiseach Martin. Biden is believed to be even more so connected to his Irish roots than John F. Kennedy, making him a strong ally for Ireland. Martin told President Biden that the people of Ireland were very proud of his election in November 2020.
The Taoiseach met with other significant figures throughout the day such as Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
The Taoiseach congratulated Harris on her historic win as Biden’s Vice President and quoted President Mary Robinson’s speech 30 years ago in November 1990 who said “I was elected by the women of Ireland .. who instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system.” Vice President Harris hosted a breakfast with the Taoiseach, a tradition that started with Joe Biden when he was Vice-President. The last visit to the VP’s residence sparked conversation when then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was accompanied by his partner Dr. Matt Barrett to Vice President Mike Pence and second Lady Karen Pence’s home for the traditional breakfast. Mike Pence is an evangelical who is known to be staunchly opposed to equal rights laws in terms of marriage and discrimination protections for the LGBTQI+ community.
Vice-President Harris mentioned the jobs that Ireland and the US supply each other with and the investment both countries place in one another. The bilateral meetings include investment opportunities and talks between enterprise representatives of the two nations to create jobs and spark growth.
The bond between The United States and Ireland is one that holds very strong in today’s modern society and global economy, a long time after so many Irish-Americans ancestors left the beautiful homeland in search of a new life, the American dream of prosperity and growth.