• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

Harris to meet Foster and O’Neill while Taoiseach to speak to US President about vaccines

Mar 17, 2021

The Biden administration has said that no decision has been made on the appointment of a Northern Ireland envoy, ahead of the St Patricks Day meeting between Taoiseach Micheal Martin and President Joe Biden.
The first meeting between the two leaders will be the centre- piece of the St Patricks Day engagements by the Taoiseach in the United States.
Speaking ahead of the bilateral meeting, a senior US administration official said no personnel decisions had been made, but certainly this administration will continue to remain very engaged in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland is expected to top the agenda of todays virtual meeting between Martin and Biden, amid ongoing interest in Washington about the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland.
US Vice-president Kamala Harris will meet virtually with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle ONeill it was confirmed overnight by the White House. US President Joe Biden is also expected to attend some of the discussion, which will take place this afternoon, following Taoiseach Micheal Martins meeting with the US president.
Mr Biden, who spent the night at his home in Delaware, will attend Mass to mark St Patricks Day at his local church this morning before flying back to Washington ahead of his lunchtime meeting with the Taoiseach.
As usual, the highpoint of the traditional St Patricks Day celebrations at the White House will be the bilateral meeting between the Taoiseach and the US president, which will take place remotely for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The traditional bowl of shamrock has already been delivered to the White House by diplomatic officials at the Irish embassy in Washington.
Mr Martin will also hold one-to-one meetings with Ms Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the bipartisan Friends of Ireland group on Capitol Hill, which will mark its fortieth anniversary. Later in the day, a celebration of the life and legacy of the late John Hume will take place, featuring tributes to the late Nobel Prize winner who was central to securing US involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process in the 1980s and 1990s.
The White House has stressed that the US is not looking to take sides in the disagreement between Britain and the European Union over the implementation of the Brexit agreement, particularly as it relates to Northern Ireland.
However, the senior administration official added: The Northern Ireland Protocol is something that was legally binding and was agreed to by both sides.
Were aware that there have been challenges over its implementationour belief is that the path forward needs to be a pragmatic one that provides political stability and prosperity for all the people in Northern Ireland.
It is understood that British officials have held meetings with figures in Washington in recent days.
David Frost, Britains Brexit negotiator and northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis briefed the Ad-hoc Committee on the Good Friday Agreement, a group of prominent Irish-Americans. Mr Lewis also spoke with co-chair of the congressional Friends of Ireland group, Richard Neal.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and Deputy First Minister Michelle ONeill will brief the Friends of Ireland group today.
Also on the agenda for the meetings between Mr Martin and senior US political figures is a discussion on Covid-19, cooperation on issues relating to Irelands current status as a UN Security Council member and immigration, with the Taoiseach expected to raise Irelands efforts to secure access to the E3 visa currently offered to Australian citizens. It follows the appointment of former US Special Envoy John Deasy to advise Irish-American group, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOC), earlier this month on lobbying congress on the issue.
On the issue of Covid-19 and vaccinations, Mr Martin said on Tuesday: I will obviously be in discussions with the president about the broader issue of, not just Covid, but the whole idea of vaccine production, distribution, the raw materials necessary to produce a vaccine. It comes amid calls for the US to release some of its doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine, which has not yet been approved by US regulators, to the EU.
Todays virtual programme of events takes place a day after the US Senate unveiled a resolution underlining its support for the Belfast Agreement and calling for its full implementation.
The resolution- which was sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Susan Collins – expresses support for the full implementation of the agreement and subsequent efforts to support peace on the island of Ireland.
It also states that any new or amended trade agreements between the US and UK should take into account that the conditions of the Belfast Agreement are met.
There is also mention of the Northern Ireland protocol – currently the subject of fierce contention between London and Brussels, following Britains move to unilaterally delay the introduction of customs checks between the North and Britain. It also calls for continuing attention and action to resolve the injustices of past violence, including state-sponsored violence.
The Good Friday Agreement was a historic accomplishment that established a framework for a sustainable peace, said Mr Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. However, the work of the Agreement remains unfinished. Ahead of Saint Patricks Day, we are calling for renewed attention and action to implement the Agreements provisions, including the passage of a bill of rights and accountability for past injustices.