TAOISEACH MICHEAL is willing to be vaccinated ahead of a potential trip to meet US President Joe Biden in Washington for St Patrick’s Day – but only if he is formally invited.
The Fianna Fail leader has confirmed that no official invite has been extended but both parties are working to configure an “optimal” solution to ensure the Irish holiday is marked properly.
Martin is also willing to jump the queue for a vaccine and defy Ireland’s travel restrictions if it means he can travel to Washington DC, describing the idea of being inoculated ahead of the trip as a “wise move”.
The Taoiseach told Newstalk Breakfast: "Both administrations, the President and I are very keen to cement the Irish relationship, to strengthen it during the term of an Irish-American President of the quality of Joe Biden.
"We will do this in the optimal way, we will represent on St Patrick's Day as we always do.
"Obviously Covid-19 places a new context on that so officials are working on how best to mark St Patrick's Day.
"If it was agreed and if an invite was to arrive, if I was to travel to Washington then I think vaccination would be the wise move in that sense."
Martin added that he was “amused” at the criticism over his plans to travel and said there was “no fear” about giving government officials vaccines.
He said: "We're not terrified of vaccinating ministers, I do think the Foreign Minister and those who travel a lot should be vaccinated with the context of the security council, but we did have a view that the residents and staff in nursing homes and the frontline healthcare workers should be vaccinated first.
"I believe that in respect of the roles of the Office of An Taoiseach that this is a very important occasion, most countries would appreciate the opportunity to meet the President of the United States or have that unique opportunity of St Patrick's Day.
"I think there are important issues on the economic front and like with a number of Irish Americans in his administration we can develop partnerships on a number of fronts across the board and I would be anxious to pursue that with the new administration."
The comments come with the Government set to maintain Ireland’s high levels of restrictions until Easter at the earliest in a bid to ease the "extraordinary pressures" on frontline workers.
Martin told RTE Radio 1's Morning Ireland said that given the current progress of the vaccine rollout it "makes sense" to be "cautious and conservative".
He added that the restrictions in place now would help bring the numbers down and that ultimately the constraints in place down would be “worth it” in the long run.
Martin said: "Certainly schools are the priority, construction and a phased return to construction, particularly housebuilding because we have a social crisis in terms of the availability of housing for people across all strata of society.
“Certainly, we are looking at a continuation of high levels of restrictions to the Easter Period, that remains to be determined by Government, there will be further discussions, we are revising our Living With Covid plan.
"We have to get those numbers down, we have to relieve those pressures, not just in the short term but for a sustained period and into the long term, we don’t want that situation happening again in our hospitals.
“Also, with the vaccination roll out, we still have, it makes sense that we would be cautious and conservative in the rollout because every month we get now with vaccination, we reduce mortality, we reduce severe illness aomong those most vulnerable.
“That is a prize worth fighting for and I would say to people, I thank people for the manner in which they have responded to the Level 5 since we brought it in, numbers are coming down.
"But it is worth it now to keep it going as the vaccine is being rolled out because that will change the situation for us all, certainly in quarter 2 of the year.”