Biden, the proud Irish American, takes a trip to Northern Ireland
This trip marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that established a power-sharing government in northern Ireland
President Joe Biden is spending four days across the pond, visiting Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom before heading to the Republic of Ireland in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
On Thursday, Biden met with Ireland President Michael Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the country’s vice president, addressed the Irish Parliament and attended a banquet dinner at Dublin Castle in Ireland, per the press briefing.
He also briefly met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Northern Ireland on Wednesday morning before giving an address at Ulster University.
Mr. Prime Minister, it’s great to see you again.— President Biden (@POTUS) April 12, 2023
I’m glad to be here and mark the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, which has brought peace and prosperity to Northern Ireland.
I look forward to working together to unlock Nothern Ireland's vast potential. pic.twitter.com/w2Q9sGseqR
During the address, he reflected back on his time as a senator in 1998, when the agreement was signed: “Where barbed wire once sliced up the city, today we find cathedral — a cathedral of learning built of glass and let the (light) shine,” Biden said, adding, “It just has a profound impact for someone who has come back to see it.”
According to the British Library, the Good Friday Agreement created a power-sharing system that took into account religious and political divides with the goal of ending decades of violence.
This new government represented both unionists, who want Northern Ireland to continue being a part of U.K., and nationalists, who favored governing Ireland as a sovereign state.
“Supporting the people of Northern Ireland, protecting the peace, preserving the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement is a priority for Democrats and Republicans alike in the United States, and that is unusual today because we’ve been very divided in our parties,” Biden said.
But this anniversary comes at a stressful time, as the power-sharing Stormont, Northern Ireland’s assembly, remains dormant after the Democratic Unionist Party, or the DUP, blocked its functioning to protest against the post-Brexit protocol for trade deals between the U.K. and the European Union, according to BBC News.
“Now, I know the U.K.’s departure from the European Union created complex challenges here in Northern Ireland,” Biden said. “The Windsor Framework addresses the practical realities of Brexit and it’s an essential step to ensuring hard-earned peace and progress of the Good Friday Agreement is preserved and strengthened.”
The DUP opposes this proposed framework. The party’s leader, Arlene Foster, said that there is no doubt Biden hates the U.K. while dismissing any pressure the U.S. president may put on the DUP since so many perceive him as “simply pro-republican and pro-nationalist,” according to The Guardian.
The White House pushed back on the remarks. National Security Council's Europe Director Amanda Sloat said that Biden’s track record showed “that he is not anti-British,” pointing to the allyship between the U.S. and the U.K. as well as Biden’s early meeting with Sunak, during a press briefing.
“President Biden obviously is a very proud Irish American. He is proud of those Irish roots. But he is also a strong supporter of our bilateral partnership with the U.K.,” she said.
In fact, the Irish Family History Center labeled Biden as “among the most ‘Irish’ of all U.S. Presidents.”
On Friday, the president will travel to County Mayo, where he is expected to meet experts to learn about his lineage tracing back to the Blewitts, before concluding his trip with a speech in front of a cathedral in Ballina.
As the proud son of the Blewitts of County Mayo and the Finnegans of County Louth, it’s great to be back in Ireland – the place where my ancestors forged the same values that I’ve passed down to my own children and grandchildren. pic.twitter.com/rRtyS38HRV— President Biden (@POTUS) April 12, 2023