Biden commemorates Good Friday agreement

By Peter Melahn, Staff Writer

President Joe Biden visited Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland during his diplomatic visit to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland regarding the Good Friday Agreement last week.   

President Joe Biden visited Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland this past week in an unprecedented three-day visit to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement between the two nations.

Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom (U.K.), and the Republic of Ireland were antagonists in a protracted series of conflicts that began in the late 1960s known as “The Troubles.” For more than 30 years, citizens of the two nations were involved in a period of bloodshed in which tensions between pro-English unionists and Irish nationalists flared into violent conflict.

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The Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998 by delegates from both Northern Ireland and the independent Republic of Ireland that provided a framework for the political settlement in the area and brought an end to the conflict.

Biden’s visit can be understood as divided into two distinct phases. 

On April 12, Biden first arrived in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. The U.S. president’s visit in the north focused primarily on establishing American support for the U.K.’s Windsor Framework — legislation proposed by the U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak intended to establish trade rules amongst Northern Ireland, the rest of the U.K. and the European Union (EU) in the wake of Brexit.   

During his visit, Biden emphasized the significance of the Good Friday Agreement and peace between the two nations. “It took long, hard years of work to get to this place,” he stated in a speech in Belfast.

 He also highlighted the significance of reaching trade agreements on the only land border between the U.K. and the EU.

“Today’s Belfast is the beating heart of Northern Ireland and is poised to drive unprecedented economic opportunity,” Biden said.     

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Later on Wednesday, Biden traveled to the Republic of Ireland — the southern, historically more nationalistic neighbor of Northern Ireland. His visit to the Republic was composed mostly of meetings with officials of the EU member nation.

Biden’s two-part diplomatic visit was further complicated by the President’s emphasis on his own cultural background and his identification with the Irish people.  

During his visit in Belfast, Biden’s remarks on his own Irish ancestry were met with different reactions from both pro-English unionists and nationalist republicans in Northern Ireland.

Biden’s visit made little progress on changing the minds of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which continues to staunchly oppose the Windsor Framework. As self-proclaimed loyalists to the U.K., the DUP has viewed the Irish identifying Biden’s support with skepticism.          

Conversely, Biden’s apparent self-interest in his Irish roots and his emphasis on his Irish cultural background has helped his agenda resonate with nationalist republicans who take pride in their economic, political and cultural independence from the U.K.        

President Biden spent much of his trip visiting cultural and historical sites in the Republic of Ireland, drawing connection to his personal interests as well as political ones.

“(We are) welcoming home a President of the United States. Who would ever have thought we’d be doing that,” Michael Farrow, a resident of Carlingford in the Republic of Ireland, remarked.