US PRESIDENT-ELECT Joe Biden is desperate to visit Ireland as soon as possible, telling Micheál Martin “try to keep me out.”
The Taoiseach revealed the plans for Biden’s visit to the Emerald Isle during a webinar with the Dublin-based Institute of International and European Affairs.
Asked whether he felt “confident” he would be in Washington DC for the traditional St Patrick’s Day Day celebrates, Martin acknowledged it would ultimately boil down to how both countries are coping with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“I think obviously the course of the virus will dictate a lot of that," he said.
He did acknowledge, however, that Biden is keen on not only Martin visiting the US when safe but the President returning the favour with a trip to Ireland in due course.
“When I invited President Biden to Ireland, he just said, 'try and keep me out.' So it won’t be any lack of enthusiasm on his side,” the Taoiseach said.
“But I think we have to practice about it, it’s early days yet. Obviously, Covid will have a significant impact on all bilateral contacts and our outside contacts and meetings in the coming while.”
It’s something of a tradition for the Taoiseach to visit Washington DC around St Patrick’s Day to be presented with a bowl of shamrocks.
The first such example of the practice came in 1952 when Ireland's Ambassador to the US John Hearne sent a small box of shamrocks to President Harry Truman.
By the 1990s the custom had evolved to a point where President Clinton took part in the meetings while, most recently, Leo Varadkar was presented with the shamrocks during a visit in 2019.
While the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to such plans in 2020, Martin believes that regardless of whether the ceremony happens in 2021, Ireland can look forward to a healthy relationship with a US led by Joe Biden – a President with strong Irish roots.
"In Ireland, we feel a particular affinity [with the US], given that Joe Biden has been a stalwart friend of Ireland throughout his long and decorated history of public service,” he said.
"In my conversation with him in the days after his victory, it was clear that he is passionate about both his Irish heritage and the idea of Ireland as a constructive friend at a time of great challenge for his country and the world."
He added: "From a bilateral Irish perspective, we look forward greatly to a Biden presidency. A number of members of the incoming administration are well known to us and we will be starting from a point of mutual friendship and respect."
Martin also believes a Biden presidency with result in strong bonds between the US and Europe as a whole.
“I got a sense from my conversation with President-elect Joe Biden that he wanted to rapidly reset that relationship with Europe," The Taoiseach said.
“I do see a more multilateral trust coming from the new administration which, I think, will sit well with the European Union, which is anxious to reset the relationship as well.”