President Biden on Wednesday told Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Ireland’s prime minister, that he looks forward to collaboration between the countries as the two leaders huddled in a modified bilateral meeting on St. Patrick’s Day.
“Ireland and the United States have a robust agenda that we got to deal with on the substantive side,” Mr. Biden said in the Oval Office, listing COVID-19, global health security, economic cooperation and Ireland’s seat on the U.N. Security Council. “I just welcome the leadership and your partnership.”
The president said the U.S. “strongly” supports the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which ended the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Biden, who frequently refers to his Irish ancestry, also mentioned a renewed memorandum of understanding on the cancer consortium between the U.S., Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“It’s one of the things that, as president … I am going to focus heavily on,” he said.
Mr. Martin, beaming into the meeting virtually, thanked Mr. Biden for his leadership and said his country was proud of Mr. Biden’s election last year.
The prime minister expressed his condolences for the shootings at massage parlors in the Atlanta area on Tuesday that left eight people dead.
“Mr. President, the world has rightly taken great heart in the steps you have already taken to bring the U.S. back to center stage on global health, on climate and on human rights,” he said.
He expressed interest in working with the U.S. on climate change and combating the pandemic and thanked Mr. Biden for his “unwavering” support of the Good Friday Agreement.
The agreement is getting wrapped up in the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, though the Northern Ireland Protocol is supposed to put checks on goods as they come into Northern Ireland.
The EU moved to take legal action against the U.K. this week, saying it was breaching parts of the withdrawal agreement — something the U.K. denies.
A senior Biden administration official said the agreement can’t become a casualty of Brexit and that they’re aware of implementation challenges tied to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Though the meeting was virtual, the Irish government kept up the tradition of sending an engraved bowl with shamrocks to the White House.
“The green shoots point to the brighter future that I know lies ahead,” Mr. Martin said.
Vice President Kamala Harris also held a virtual meeting with Mr. Martin and attended a virtual event to celebrate the winners of a study abroad fellowship program for American students.
Ms. Harris was also scheduled to speak with First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill of Northern Ireland.
The pandemic upended the traditional White House St. Patrick’s Day celebration, as well as a congressional luncheon.
Mr. Biden attended St. Patrick’s Day Mass earlier Wednesday in Delaware before traveling back to the White House.
The White House will be lit up in green Wednesday evening, and White House fountains were dyed green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.