US President Joe Biden announces April visit to island of Ireland
Written by First Choice Radio on 5 April 2023
President Joe Biden’s visit to Northern Ireland will “mark the tremendous progress” since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement 25 years ago, the White House has said.
Mr Biden will also visit the Republic of Ireland to discuss “close co-operation on shared global challenges”.
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed the visit would last from April 11 to 14 and would take in Belfast, Dublin, Co Louth and Co Mayo.
He said: “President Joseph R Biden, Jr will travel to the United Kingdom and Ireland from April 11-14.
“President Biden will first travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland, from April 11-12 to mark the tremendous progress since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 25 years ago and to underscore the readiness of the United States to support Northern Ireland’s vast economic potential to the benefit of all communities.
“The president will then travel to Ireland from April 12-14.
“He will discuss our close co-operation on the full range of shared global challenges.
“He will also hold various engagements, including in Dublin, County Louth and County Mayo, where he will deliver an address to celebrate the deep, historic ties that link our countries and people.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweeted that it would be a “privilege and an hour” to welcome Mr Biden to Ireland.
Mr Varadkar added: “Joe Biden has always been a friend of Ireland.
“Over many decades, and to this day, he has supported the cause of peace in Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement.
“He stood with us as we navigated the difficult consequences of Brexit.
“When we spoke recently in the White House, President Biden was clear that in celebrating the Good Friday Agreement, we should be looking ahead, not backwards.
“We need to continue working together as true partners to fulfil the potential of all the people who call this island their home.
“His visit is an opportunity to celebrate and renew the strong political, economic and personal ties that bind our two countries.”
Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy said it was a “missed opportunity” that the visit was occurring at a time when the Stormont Assembly in Northern Ireland was not sitting as part of a DUP protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements.
He said: “President Biden is coming here, it is the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the entire international focus is on this place and, from the DUP perspective, there is nobody at the wheel.
“There is an economic focus to President Biden’s visit, there is an economic focus to the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and we have nobody here to talk on behalf of the businesses and economy here.”
DUP MLA Gordon Lyons said he hoped the visit would emphasise the economic opportunities available in Northern Ireland.
The president can trace his ancestry to Ireland’s west and east coasts, specifically Ballina in Co Mayo and the Cooley Peninsula in Co Louth.
His great-great-grandfather Owen Finnegan emigrated to the United States from the Cooley peninsula while another great-great-grandfather, Patrick Blewitt, was born in Ballina, leaving during the Irish famine in 1850 to sail to America.
Distant relatives celebrated his election win in November 2020 back in Ireland and gathered again in January 2021 to mark his inauguration.
The presidential visit to the island will have a strong focus on the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday peace agreement.
Recently, Mr Biden made clear an increase in activity by violent dissident republicans opposed to the peace process in Northern Ireland would not deter him.
“No. They can’t keep me out,” he told reporters.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had invited Mr Biden to come to Northern Ireland to mark the agreement’s anniversary.
Last month, Mr Varadkar told the president that his trip to the island of Ireland would be “a visit like no other”.
“I promise you that we’re going to roll out the red carpet,” he pledged to Mr Biden during their St Patrick’s Day meeting in Washington DC.
White House officials and Secret Service personnel have already visited proposed locations as part of planning for the visit.
Former US president Bill Clinton and his wife and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton will be in Belfast the week after Mr Biden for more events to commemorate the landmark accord that largely ended the Troubles.
Other key figures involved in securing the deal are also due to travel to the city.
Published: by Radio NewsHub