Northern Ireland

White House: Joe Biden visit to Ireland marks 'tremendous progress' since Good Friday Agreement

The White House has confirmed details of President Joe Biden's Irish visit, which begins next Tuesday in Belfast. Picture by Niall Carson/PA
The White House has confirmed details of President Joe Biden's Irish visit, which begins next Tuesday in Belfast. Picture by Niall Carson/PA The White House has confirmed details of President Joe Biden's Irish visit, which begins next Tuesday in Belfast. Picture by Niall Carson/PA

US President Joe Biden's first visit to Northern Ireland will mark the "tremendous progress" made since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the White House has said.

Washington has officially confirmed that Mr Biden's Irish visit will begin next week with a visit to Belfast, where the president will arrive next Tuesday, ahead of expected engagements in the city the following day.

Last month UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak invited Mr Biden to come to Northern Ireland to mark the agreement's anniversary.

Confirming the visit White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: "President Biden will first travel to Belfast 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."

She said the president's visit would continue in the Republic on April 12-14, where he will discuss "close co-operation on 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," the spokeswoman said.

Although no details of the highly anticipated visit have yet been confirmed, it has been speculated Mr Biden, who is expected to arrive on Tuesday evening could hold off on any public engagements until Wednesday morning where a visit to Stormont could be on the cards.

It is likely he would meet acting Speaker, Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey, before addressing assembly members in the legislative chamber.

The assembly hasn't formally sat in more than a year since the DUP walked away from Stormont in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The party has said the Windsor Framework deal on the protocol by the UK and EU does not resolve its issues with the post-Brexit Irish Sea border, and will not be returning to form a new Executive.

A spokesperson for the Stormont Assembly said they could not confirm if Mr Biden would address the chamber.

It is understood the president could wrap up his visit to Belfast by officially opening Ulster University's new Belfast city centre campus with a joint address with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The £363.9million campus opened to students last year. The Irish News contacted the university for comment.

Meanwhile, in his visit to the Republic, it has been confirmed the president will hold various engagements, including in Dublin, Co Louth and Co Mayo, “where he will deliver an address to celebrate the deep, historic ties that link our countries and people".

It is expected he will stop in Co Louth on his way to Dublin, as one of two visits in the Republic to areas with which he has ancestral ties.

Mr Biden has twice visited the county before - once in 2016 when he was vice-president, and the following year.

The president's great-great-grandfather Owen Finnegan emigrated to the United States from the Cooley peninsula in 1849.

In Co Mayo, Mr Biden is expected to return to the town of Ballina, where his maternal great-great grandfather, Patrick Blewitt, departed for America in 1850.

Then vice-president, Mr Biden stopped off in the town during his 2016 visit.