Politics

Stormont leaders to attend White House St Patrick's Day celebrations

President Joe Biden. Picture by AP Photo/Alex Brandon
President Joe Biden. Picture by AP Photo/Alex Brandon President Joe Biden. Picture by AP Photo/Alex Brandon

STORMONT'S leaders will fly to the US next week to mark St Patrick's Day for the first time since 2019.

The leaders of the five main parties are all expected to attend celebrations at the White House, hosted by President Joe Biden.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Micheál Martin will also travel to Washington DC for meetings with the president.

It will be the first stateside St Patrick's Day as leaders for the DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and his Ulster Unionist counterpart Doug Beattie, who will be joined by Strangford MLA Mike Nesbitt.

Naomi Long was previously a guest at the White House in 2010, when she was Belfast lord mayor but is travelling for the first time as Alliance leader.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald and deputy leader Michelle O'Neill will begin their visit on Sunday when they fly to New York before travelling to Washington DC for next Friday's celebrations.

Ms O'Neill was due to travel to the states in 2020 alongside the then first minister Arlene Foster, however, the trip was cancelled due to the emerging Covid pandemic.

The St Patrick's Day celebrations at the White House will take on added significance due to President Biden's Irish ancestry.

In 2015, the then vice-president caused a minor controversy when he joked with the then taoiseach Enda Kenny that "if you're wearing orange, you're not welcome in here".

He later said that he was "only joking" but the remark drew criticism from some unionists.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Donald Trump during the 2019 St Patrick's Day celebrations. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Donald Trump during the 2019 St Patrick's Day celebrations. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Donald Trump during the 2019 St Patrick's Day celebrations. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The current political impasse at Stormont is expected to dominate what is normally a series of informal, relaxed events.

The president will host the political leaders less than two weeks after the Windsor Framework was published.