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Transcript: Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin on "Face the Nation," March 14, 2021

Irish PM stresses need for more vaccines
Irish prime minister stresses need for more vaccine doses to meet global demand 06:20

The following is a transcript of an interview with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin that aired Sunday, March 14, 2020, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: Last year, Ireland's prime minister did travel to Washington just before St. Patrick's Day, but the formal celebration was canceled due to the pandemic. This year, that meeting with President Biden will be virtual. Taoiseach Micheal Martin joins us now from Dublin. Good morning to you.


MARGARET BRENNNAN: Great to have you here. The Biden administration has renewed that ban on travel from Europe, including Ireland. And I wonder, given progress with the pandemic, do you expect it to be lifted perhaps this summer?

PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Well, that depends on, you know, and we're- we're- we similarly have significant restrictions on travel into Ireland and indeed across Europe. As the vaccination program rolls out, I believe opportunities will arise, but it's just far too early to say yet. And particularly in the context of the summer, we have a significant journey still to go in terms of vaccinations and in terms of keeping the virus down, because, as you know, in some member states of the European Union now the numbers are going back up because of the prevalence of the B.1.1.7 U.K. variant, which is much more transmissible.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You just gestured to the fact that the E.U. is- is significantly behind in vaccinating its own citizens, and that includes your constituents. When you meet with President Biden this week, will you ask him for vaccine supply from the US stockpile, since that's a big issue?

PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Well, I think I'm not aware of too many countries that are giving their vaccines away. I think more critically, we will obviously discuss COVID and we'll discuss vaccination. The critical point, I think, for all of us to- to bear in mind is the fact that this is a joint enterprise in terms of vaccine development and vaccine production. These companies, J&J, Moderna, Pfizer BioNTech and AstraZeneca, they're all partnerships between US and European companies and- and involved companies that have global- integrated global supply chains. So different component parts of vaccines are- are developed in different parts of the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the New York Times reported that the Biden administration had denied a request from the European Union to loan out AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses to the E.U. Will you ask President Biden to reconsider that?

PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Well, I think the- the whole- that whole issue around AstraZeneca, there's been significant difficulties between AstraZeneca and Europe in terms of AstraZeneca fulfilling its contractual commitments to Europe, and they haven't been in a position to do that and have fallen very far short of what they committed to Europe. But as I say, you know, I'm not preempting any discussions I will have in detail with the president, but obviously the broader COVID vaccination issue will, of course, be discussed.

MARGARET BRENNNAN: Tensions have been spiking in Northern Ireland, as you know. The British government has not been honoring all the terms of its divorce from the European Union. Now, you also have Northern Irish paramilitary groups saying they're temporarily withdrawing support for the Good Friday peace agreement due to other complications. Are you going to ask President Biden to intervene or appoint an envoy?

PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Well, first of all, we- I would be thanking President Biden for his steadfast support of the Good Friday Agreement and of peace in- in Ireland. And I'd also be thanking the friends of Ireland and the vice president and Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the consistency of their support for peace in Ireland. And that has been positive in terms of influencing the journey of Brexit itself. And we do, you know, we knew Brexit would create challenges, would- and it has. It hasn't been easy. And Brexit is only two and a half months old since Britain has formally exited the European Union. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you need U.S. help with that?

PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Yes, we- we want to see a continuation of the- the president's interest in Ireland in support of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement and also of upholding the- the Brexit agreement itself. And I have no doubt that the president will continue that interest and will use his good offices and the administration's good offices to bring the right outcomes here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that a nice way of saying you need him to lean on Boris Johnson to stick by his commitments? Because as a candidate, Joe Biden said the U.K. wouldn't get a trade deal unless they honored the peace deal.

PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Yeah, and in fairness, as I said, the support of- of President Biden in recent times and- and throughout the years has been influential and it's been effective. You know, we also in Ireland here have to work on a post-Brexit relationship with the United Kingdom and we're doing that. And I get on well with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and we will be working out issues post Brexit. We have to develop a stronger structure now for British-Irish relationships in the aftermath of Britain leaving the European Union. But part of that whole relationship is the US engagement and connection, because I'm, having been involved at the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, I'm under no illusions about the significance of the American involvement and engagement with all sides and all traditions and all perspectives on the island of Ireland and with the United Kingdom. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Any indication if President Biden will visit Ireland in June?

PRIME MINISTER MARTIN: Not yet, but when I spoke to him in November, I invited him to- to Ireland and he just said to me, try and keep me out. So that- that means it's a live possibility. At any stage, it's a live possibility that President Biden could arrive on our shores. And I can tell you he would be most welcome because we really appreciate the warmth that he has for Ireland.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Taoiseach, thank you very much for your time. Happy St. Patrick's Day. 


We'll be right back.

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