Editorial: President Joe Biden's visit offers vital support for Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland economy but highlights missed opportunities

A visit by a US President is always a significant occasion, especially so when the President in question has a long and authentic interest in Ireland and its people. That is the case with Joe Biden, who is due to arrive in Northern Ireland today before travelling to Dublin, Louth and Mayo.

President Biden's visit is rich with symbolism, not least in its affirmation of the Good Friday Agreement. There promises to be genuine substance too; accompanying the President is Joe Kennedy, making his first visit as Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs. The White House describes this role as being focused on "advancing economic development and investment opportunities to the benefit of all communities". The significance of having allies who are willing to help us build and promote our economy should not be taken for granted.

Yet, thanks to the continuing absence of power-sharing at Stormont, the Northern Ireland leg of President Biden's visit will be undeniably brief and low key. He will be in the north for less than 24 hours. Only one major engagement is planned, the opening of the new Ulster University campus in Belfast.

For all its inherent positives, there is a strong sense that the visit represents an enormous missed opportunity. It is likely that it will be defined more by what he won't be doing - most obviously, addressing a sitting Assembly - and less by what he actually does. In Dublin, the President will become the fourth US President to address the Oireachtas; the contrast couldn't be more stark.

Whatever President Biden's powers of persuasion, whether personally or through the authority of his office, it is highly unlikely that the DUP will be convinced through its conversations with him to immediately return to Stormont.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who will greet President Biden when Air Force One lands, celebrated those involved in the Good Friday Agreement, "who took difficult decisions, accepted compromise, and showed leadership – showing bravery, perseverance and political imagination". The absence of those attributes today is all too obvious.

And in the Vatican on Monday, Pope Francis gave thanks for the Agreement but urged that "what was achieved in that historic step can be consolidated to benefit all the men and women of the island of Ireland".

While others, from President to Pope, do their best to build bridges, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson's DUP shows every sign of remaining in bridge-burning mode. The principles that created the Good Friday Agreement and the majority who backed the deal deserve better.