Mar 17, 2021
Joe Biden Meeting with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin Transcript March 17
President Joe Biden met with Micheál Martin, the Prime Minister of Ireland, on St. Patrick’s Day. Read the transcript of the meeting remarks here.
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Joe Biden: (00:00)
… from the Justice Department. So, I’ll have more to say when the investigation is completed. Now, I want to say Happy St. Patrick’s Day to the Taoiseach. It’s good to be good to have you on television. But next year in Washington, next year in Washington. For years, as you know Taoiseach we celebrated this St Patrick’s day. I always put on a breakfast at my home at the Vice President’s residence with leading Irish Americans, your ambassador, our ambassador, as well as some of the prelates who were involved with us. And, it was always a good time.
Joe Biden: (00:43)
Then we’d go into this very office. You’d sit at a chair over here, the Taoiseach would sit there and I’d sit where my national security advisor is sitting and we’d have a long discussion with the President. And then we’d go up to the United States Capitol where the Speaker of the House, starting with Tip O’Neill, would put on an event as well. And, and then I always snuck over to the Irish Embassy later. I hope we can do that next year. I hope we can do that next year.
Joe Biden: (01:13)
In the meantime, I want to thank you for the shamrock bowl. I don’t know whether you can see it here? But it’s a great tradition, a custom that goes all the way back to Harry Truman, who I have a bust of Harry Truman over in that corner, I noticed he didn’t move to grab any of the shamrocks.
Joe Biden: (01:33)
And tonight, Taoiseach, I hope you’ll be able to see that, at least remotely, we’re going to light up the White House in green to celebrate the deep, deep affection that we Americans have, particularly Irish Americans have, for Ireland and the people of Ireland. And it includes millions of Americans like my great, great grandfather and my great-grandfather and my grandfather, all of whom were Irish-Americans on both sides of the family.
Joe Biden: (02:12)
My grandfather Ambrose Finnegan who was a great football player, American football, and a newspaper man back at the turn of the 20th century, used to always say… Later, when he was much older and I’d walk out of his home, he’d say, “Joey, remember. The best drop of blood in ya is Irish.” I remembered it. I promise you. Because if I didn’t my grandmother Geraldine Blewitt Finnegan would take me down.
Joe Biden: (02:48)
We have a lot of great memories as well in our family, because one of your predecessors… I’ve been to Ireland many times, but the first time I went to actually go back and look at my roots and meet my family was the last year I was Vice-President United States. And we went both to Mayo where the Blewitts are from and Ballina, the city. And we went to County Louth where the Finnegans are from. It was a great, great opportunity for me to show my grandchildren and children and my brother and sister.
Joe Biden: (03:29)
I joked at the time, after I left, I wondered why the hell we left in the first place? It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. And so I think there’s a lot of folks here in Island, my friends from Ireland would always say, “The American-Irish think they’re more Irish than the Irish.” But the truth of the matter is that we have a great affection for their country and a great affection for the tradition.
Joe Biden: (04:00)
Ireland and the United States have a robust agenda that we’ve got to deal with on the substantive side of this issue, Taoiseach. From combating COVID, to strengthening global health security, to also discussing our economic cooperation and Ireland’s leadership now in the UN Security Council, which were working together. Our UN Ambassador is online with us here.
Joe Biden: (04:26)
I just welcome the leadership and your partnership. And you know my view and the view of my predecessor, the Obama-Biden administration, on the good Friday agreements. We strongly support them, think it’s critically important that they be maintained. And the political economic stability of Northern Ireland is very much in the interest of all our people, so people-to-people ties.
Joe Biden: (04:52)
I think the idea that we talked about, about renewing our partnership in the All Ireland Consortium, cancer consortium, the US, Ireland and Northern-Ireland. It’s a partnership that I think we can learn a lot from one another. It’s one of the things that as President, Taoiseach, I am going to focus heavily on with our National Institute of Health on dealing with cancer. We’ve all been victims of it in terms of our families. We all know what it’s like, and we’re going to make major investments in NIH and cancer research and development. And I’m looking forward to working together.
Joe Biden: (05:35)
As a matter of fact, my relatives in Mayo just dedicated… Loretta, one of my cousins, headed up the hospice effort for cancer… Not just cancer, but hospice in Ireland. And they just dedicated a new significant facility to my son, Beau Biden, who died of cancer. And so everything between Ireland and United States runs deep, Taoiseach. Our joys, our sorrows, our passion, our drive, and our unrelenting optimism and hope.
Joe Biden: (06:18)
One of the few quotes that I’ve been given credit for in my career was I said… But I’d mean it, maybe it’s just my family. I said, “We Irish are the only people who are nostalgic for the future,” and I think we are. It’s a great opportunity for you and I to get to talk a little bit. So, looking forward to our conversation and I’m looking forward to getting deeper into discussion about some of the things that are of great mutual interest to both of us. As we used to say in the United States Senate, Taoiseach, I yield the floor to you.
Micheál Martin: (06:55)
Thank you very much, indeed. And Mr. President, first of all, on behalf of the Irish people to you I express my condolences to the people of America and indeed the people of Atlanta and to the families of those that were killed in the horrible and very shocking shootings yesterday. And our solidarity is with you and particularly the Asian-American community. We stand together against such mindless acts of violence.
Micheál Martin: (07:28)
I know, Mr. President, St. Patrick’s Day is very special to you as a proud son of Ireland. Equally, I have to tell you, the people of Ireland are so proud of your election as President of the United States of America. And I can think of no better day for me to have the great pleasure to extend to you their warmness and greetings.
Joe Biden: (07:58)
Micheál Martin: (07:58)
[foreign language 00:07:58] Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Now, as you’ve said it seems strange we 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. This year because of the pandemic, that simply isn’t possible.
Micheál Martin: (08:23)
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.
Joe Biden: (08:41)
Micheál Martin: (08:43)
With each person vaccinated, we moved closer to the day when people can meet each other, hug each other and celebrate again. And I greatly look forward to you being able to visit Ireland as you have done so many times. And as you have said, so memorably before. I also hope it will not be long before I can visit the United States again.
Micheál Martin: (09:06)
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’ve endured, always I think [inaudible 00:09:21] The green shoots point to the brighter future that I know what lies ahead. The Building Back Better future will, of course, be part of what we discuss today.
Micheál Martin: (09:34)
The policies of our two governments are already closely aligned on the big challenges the world faces. And 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. We should share notes on our plans for recovery, gaining back the ground lost to the pandemic.
Micheál Martin: (10:02)
Both the United States and Europe have put funds of unprecedented scale in place to support this vital work, to build a sustainable and inclusive future, supporting the digital and green agendas, promoting open and fair rules-based trade, delivering greater equality and opportunity.
Micheál Martin: (10:24)
Mr. President, the world has rightly taken great heart from the steps you have already taken to bring the US back to center stage on global health, on climate and on human rights. We want to work with you to promote our shared values and interests in the world, including at the United Nations Security Council on which we are, as you said, currently serving. We want to work with you on climate action which becomes ever more urgent as we approach COP26 later this year.
Micheál Martin: (10:59)
Today, I especially want to thank you for your unwavering support for the Good Friday Agreement. It has meant a lot and it has mattered, including as we negotiated [inaudible 00:11:14]. With a new trading relationship now in place between the European Union and the United Kingdom and the protocol that protects peace and avoids a hard border of this island, I will move forward with a positive relationship with the United Kingdom.
Micheál Martin: (11:31)
That means standing by what has been agreed and working together to make a success of it. And that, in turn then, can maintain peace and promote greater reconciliation on our shared Ireland goals that I know you support. There’s so many areas where the Irish and America people are already working together, and we will celebrate some of them here today. The Consortium through which are practitioners and researchers improve their efforts to defeat cancer, that most pernicious disease. I know it’s very close America in terms of dealing with that. The new initiative to share our poetry and bring it to newer and younger audiences that we will announce today.
Micheál Martin: (12:19)
Mr. President, like you, I am fundamentally an optimist. We have all endured the most difficult year. But, along side the suffering and the loss, we have seen immense compassion, care and courage. Especially from our health workers, our educators and our volunteers. We have seen the world’s best scientists come together to deliver treatments, vaccines and hope at extraordinary pace. And I say that the same spirit of cooperation now speed and guide or recovery in the year ahead. And thank you, Mr. President, I look forward toward to our discussion.
Joe Biden: (12:56)
I look forward to it as well. We’re going to let the press walk out.
[crosstalk 00:13:13] Mr. President, how concerned are you about the current impasse in Northern Ireland?
[crosstalk 00:13:30] Come on, let’s go.