Joe Biden

Joe Biden to visit Northern Ireland to mark 25-year GFA anniversary

Beyond England

The White House has confirmed that Joe Biden will visit Northern Ireland next to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. He will also travel to the Republic of Ireland to deepen the ties between the two countries. The US played a pivotal role in bringing the accord’s signatories together in 1998, with then-president Bill Clinton and US Special Envoy for Peace in Northern Ireland George Mitchell making significant contributions. While Biden had been invited to Stormont and Queen’s University, the BBC reports that he will now only attend one engagement at Ulster University.

Next week, US President Joe Biden will visit the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. He will first travel to Northern Ireland before attending functions in the Republic. During the visit, Biden is expected to mark the progress made since the inception of the accord while underscoring the US’s continued support.

According to a White House spokesperson, the president will attend engagements in County Mayo, County Louth, and Dublin to celebrate “deep, historic ties” between the two countries. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told AP News that Biden would address the Irish Parliament on 13 April.

In Northern Ireland, he is set to open Ulster University’s new £350 million campus, the BBC reports. PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne told the news channel that security costs are approximately £7 million, with 300 officers from other UK forces drafted in for support.

While not all of the NI visit’s details have been revealed, the US president is also expected to address business leaders. He may also hold talks with Northern Ireland politicians. Joe Kennedy II, a special envoy with an economic brief to attract US investment to Northern Ireland, is expected to accompany the president.

Shut Stormont appears off the agenda

While the Irish and US government would have liked to see Joe Biden at Stormont, the optics of an institution in limbo took a trip off the table. The DUP’s veto on getting the Northern Ireland Assembly back up and running has undoubtedly put a damper on the celebrations. Therefore, the White House appears to have chosen to focus on the visit to the Republic instead.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told reporters that the US’s and President Biden’s involvement had been “essential to the peace process in Ireland”.

“From its earliest uncertain beginnings to the making of the Good Friday Agreement, in good days and bad, the US has always been at our side.

“So it’s fitting that President Biden will be here to mark this significant milestone with us.”

The celebrations come against a backdrop of resurging violence and instability. Last week, MI5 raised the terrorism threat level to “severe”.

Brexit strained the fragile peace agreement with the Northern Ireland Protocol responsible for the DUP’s refusal to re-instate the institutions. The Windsor Framework had been hailed as a breakthrough and found strong Westminster support but failed to garner the DUP’s approval.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Joe Biden praised the framework:

“It’s a vital, vital step, and that’s going to help ensure all the people in Northern Ireland have an opportunity to realize their full potential.”

When news of the Biden visit broke, it had been hoped that a potential visit to Stormont may persuade the DUP to relent. But the party made it clear that the Windsor Framework did not address their concerns satisfactorily.

On the Biden visit, the DUP’s MLA Gordon Lyons said he hoped the president’s trip would highlight the economic opportunities available in the North. Conor Murphy, Sinn Fein MLA, called it a “missed opportunity” that Biden’s visit was occurring when the Assembly was not sitting because of a DUP protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements.

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