Northern Ireland

Congressman ally of Joe Biden says US president unlikely to visit north to mark Good Friday Agreement anniversary

President Joe Biden. Picture by AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Joe Biden. Picture by AP Photo/Evan Vucci

A CLOSE ally of Joe Biden has signalled that the US president is unlikely to visit Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Democratic Party congressman Brendan Boyle said that while President Biden was "anxious to visit Ireland" during his term in office, he was unlikely to make the trip in April, when the 1998 accord's anniversary will be marked.

It has been speculated that the president would be reluctant to visit Ireland, and the north in particular, if there was no resolution to the current impasse around the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The anniversary of the agreement's signing falls on April 10 – just over ten weeks away.

Congressman Boyle has said he “doesn’t get the sense” that the president will make the transatlantic trip.

"Certainly, the president is anxious to visit Ireland, it’ll be a great celebration when it happens, a celebration of his roots, how far Ireland has come, literally better now than ever before," he told the BBC.

“And the importance of the US-Irish relationship. But I don’t get the sense from the White House that it necessarily has to be in April or that Northern Ireland would take centre stage in it.

“Certainly I imagine that when he does visit Ireland it would include a visit to the north, but I don’t necessarily think it has to be in April.”

Mr Boyle also revealed that he had spoken to Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris, who flew to the States on Sunday for a five-day trip.

"I think he understands what a premium we put on Northern Ireland and the peace process here on Capitol Hill and in the United States," said of their meeting.

"We certainly had very good discussions in terms of where the UK and the EU are now in terms of the protocol – ironing out any implementation issues that may exist, and I stressed to him that for the last six-and-a-half years… the US has made clear its position, and it is a bi-partisan one."

The congressman said his colleagues wanted to " preserve the integrity of the Good Friday, or Belfast Agreement".

In response to Mr Boyle's remarks, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson tweeted that the congressman "talks about the GFA but fails to realise that NI operates by power-sharing not majority rule".

"Whether British, Irish or other, we only progress when we move forward together.

"Let’s replace the protocol with arrangements both unionists and nationalists can support."