Joe Biden to discuss donating surplus vaccines to Ireland in St Patrick's Day talk

Joe Biden at the Government Buildings, Dublin, Ireland during a 2015 tour

Joe Biden at the government Buildings, Dublin, Ireland during a 2015 tour - Credit: PA

Ireland's prime minister is to hold talks with US president Joe Biden as the traditional St Patrick’s Day engagement goes online.

The Taoiseach traditionally travels to Washington DC for St Patrick’s week to hold a series of high-level meetings with the most powerful political figures in the US.

But the pandemic has prevented Micheal Martin from making the trip this year, with events taking place virtually instead.

Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill are also expected to hold a virtual call with vice president Kamala Harris on Wednesday – a meeting that may also involve an appearance from President Biden.

Martin and Biden are both marking their first St Patrick’s Day since they assumed office.

Keeping with tradition, their engagement will involve the presentation of a bowl of shamrock to Biden.

The president often speaks with great pride about his Irish roots, having heritage tracing back to Ballina in Co Mayo and the Cooley Peninsula in Co Louth.

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Ahead of the meeting, the Taoiseach predicted the discussions would feature Brexit and the coronavirus crisis.

Ireland’s problems securing Covid-19 vaccine supplies are also set to feature.

This week, president Biden said the US was in discussion with “several countries” over any surplus vaccines that may become available.

Commenting on the engagement with the president, Martin said on Tuesday: “I think the fundamental aspect of tomorrow’s meeting is to strengthen and deepen even further the bilateral relationship between Ireland and the United States.”

Martin’s programme of events begins in the early afternoon with a meeting with speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

He will also meet vice-president Harris.

The Taoiseach’s virtual itinerary also includes a lunch hosted by Pelosi and a memorial event for the late SDLP leader John Hume.

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