Biden’s St. Patrick’s Day scrambled by Irish PM’s COVID case

Associated Press

Washington – President Joe Biden met virtually Thursday with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin after the visiting leader’s positive test for COVID-19 scrambled plans to mark St. Patrick’s Day at the White House.

“I’m really deeply sorry for the inconvenience that we have to meet virtually this year,” Biden said to Martin, who dialed in by video link while isolating at Blair House across the street from the White House. The traditional crystal bowl of shamrocks gifted to the U.S. president was displayed next to the television monitor set up next to Biden’s chair in the oval office.

The national flag of Ireland flies from Blair House, the official government guest house, across the street from the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 17, 2022.

“I’m doing good, and I think that reminds of the vaccines and that the vaccines prevent severe illness,” Martin told Biden.

Ireland's Taoiseach Micheal Martin arrives for a visit to pharmaceutical and biotech research firm APC in Cherrywood, Dublin, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020.

Biden and Martin joined to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has jolted the world and brought the U.S. and its European allies to unite in condemnation and in placing stiff sanctions on Russia.

“We have to be united,” Biden said. “We certainly are. But Putin’s brutality and what his troops are doing in Ukraine is just inhumane.”

Martin said he wanted salute Biden’s leadership in marshaling democracies against what he called an “unjustifiable and immoral war,” “It’s firm, it’s determined, it’s measured, it’s strong,” Martin said.

Biden also reaffirmed U.S. support for the Good Friday accords, which were signed in 1998 and helped end sectarian violence that had raged for three decades over the issue of Northern Ireland unifying with Ireland or remaining part of the United Kingdom.

The virtual meeting kicked off the first in a day-long set of festivities that have been reimagined after the Irish leader’s diagnosis.

Martin will sit out the annual “Friends of Ireland Luncheon” at the Capitol, hosted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that Biden will attend. Biden will go ahead with a White House reception planned for Thursday evening, but Martin will not participate.

Martin learned he had tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday evening while attending an event with Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but the White House said the president was not considered a close-contact of Martin – also referred to as Ireland’s taoiseach. Biden said he was glad to briefly see Martin “for seven and a half minutes” at the event.

This year marks the Irish-American Biden’s second St. Patrick’s Day in office, but his first with substantial in-person events after last year’s celebrations were suspended by the pandemic.