President Biden To Visit Ireland

[ Posted Tuesday, March 14th, 2023 – 16:38 UTC ]

Politics can be a dreary subject at times, but every once in a while a story pops up which is nothing but cheerful news. This week's feel-good story comes from President Joe Biden -- only the second Irish Catholic to ever become president of the United States. Biden just made this auspicious news by accepting an invitation to visit Northern Ireland, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Accords. This was timely indeed, since it happened during the week which ends on Saint Patrick's Day. Biden, in accepting the invitation, made a point of saying he'll be visiting both Belfast (in Northern Ireland) as well as the Republic of Ireland.

The invite was personally extended by the United Kingdom's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, but Biden had a standing open invitation to visit the Republic as well. This week, Biden will also meet with Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar for the traditional Paddy's Day "giving of the shamrocks," to show America's solidarity with the Irish Republic. Varadkar will no doubt offer his own personal invitation to Biden at the time.

The Good Friday Accords were historic because they brought an end to the period known as the "Troubles." Over 3,500 people died over the course of three decades, in a guerrilla war fought between the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the British forces. Nobody wants to return to that dark chapter in Irish history, so the fact that the Irish have enjoyed a quarter century of relative peace since then is definitely worth celebrating.

Coincidentally, the Irish are experiencing another pivotal historic moment, although the outcome is not guaranteed. The hardest question with "Brexit" -- the severing of economic and political ties between the U.K. and the European Union -- has always been the U.K.'s only land border with any E.U. member: the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. A possible solution to the problem -- the Windsor Framework -- is now on the table, but has yet to be accepted by all parties involved. The new proposal will avoid the one thing nobody wants to see happen: reinstituting hard border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic. By the time the Good Friday Accords celebration happens next month, Ireland may have something else to celebrate as well -- although again, nothing is guaranteed at the moment.

While all of this was treated as a rather minor bit of news here in America, it is a very big deal to the Irish. The last presidential visit happened a decade ago, when Barack Obama (or, as he joked at the time, "Barack O'Bama") made the trip. And even before Biden's acceptance of the invitation, former President Bill Clinton was also considering attending the anniversary celebrations as well (since as president he was instrumental in getting the Good Friday Accords signed). So Ireland might even see two American presidents together for the occasion.

From the local reporting, it sounds as if President Biden is going to actually have a chance to relax a bit while he's there -- this could actually wind up being the longest foreign visit he's ever made as president. After he makes his official appearances, he will travel to the west of Ireland, to County Mayo, where his roots lie: has learned that President Biden will fly into Belfast around April 10 to mark the 25th anniversary of the [Good Friday] Agreement. He will then come to Dublin.

It is thought he will make at least one major public address, in the manner of predecessors Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

But there will be up to three days spent in Mayo, according to US sources.

. . .

[T]he president is expected to be on walkabout in Ballina, where his ancestral family, the Blewitts, hail from.

A promised game of golf in Castlebar, Co Mayo, could also be on the cards with former Taoiseach Enda Kenny, with whom he has built up a strong friendship.

The entire trip probably won't make a whole lot of news in America, especially seeing as how much of it will be a vacation. But it will be an enormous event in Ireland, since even without the presence of Biden or Clinton, commemorating 25 years of peace is an impressive achievement for them indeed. If the visit coincides with a new Framework between the Republic and the U.K. being accepted, there will be even more reason to celebrate.

Unlike with John F. Kennedy, Joe Biden's Irish roots are not usually all that prominently displayed. But while it is normally only notable during the annual Paddy's Day goodwill meeting with the Irish leader, this year we'll all get another reminder of it next month as well, as Biden enjoys some Irish hospitality. It certainly sounds like a fun spring trip!

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


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