The First Minister and Deputy First Minister will not travel to Washington for St Patrick’s Day this year due to the pandemic.
he Executive Office confirmed on Thursday that the annual visit would not proceed this year, amid ongoing public health concerns.
A spokesperson said: “Due to the ongoing public health emergency, Executive Office Ministers will not be travelling this year to the United States over the St Patrick’s Day period.”
Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill also cancelled last year’s visit, at the outset of the pandemic.
However, in the Republic, Taoiseach Micheal Martin has signalled his intention to proceed with the visit.
Despite criticism in some quarters, ministers have defended the decision.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told Today FM’s The Last Word on Thursday: “The economic and political benefits of the ongoing engagement that we have had with the US is so important to our country.
“If I was to look at what the definition of essential travels are – one of them would be meeting the US President for the betterment of our country.
“If that event is happening the Taoiseach, I believe, should be at it”.
Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister said recently he believes the traditional St Patrick’s Day visit to the White House by the Taoiseach will go ahead this year.
Simon Coveney said the Government would have to figure out a way of visiting the US safely, because of the global pandemic.
Last year’s visit by then taoiseach Leo Varadkar to former president Donald Trump was cut short amid the first coronavirus outbreak in Ireland.
Asked if this year’s visit would go ahead, Mr Coveney replied: “I think it will. But we have to figure out how we do St Patrick’s Day this year safely.
“As we know, parades have already been cancelled. But we will reach out in the most appropriate way we can, in the most impactful way we can, obviously while being sensitive to public health perspectives.”
He told RTE’s News At One: “St Patrick’s Day is an extraordinary and unique opportunity that Ireland has.
“We make the most of it every year, and I have no doubt that the interaction between the Taoiseach and the new Irish-American presence in the White House, we’ll have a very close and detailed interaction over that period.”