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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Biden to mark St. Patrick’s Day with Irish PM

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Washington – President Joe Biden and Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will paint the town green on Friday at a series of Saint Patrick’s Day events celebrating strong US-Irish links – and Biden’s personal love for the country.

The Irish leader’s White House visit is a cherished annual tradition.

That has never been truer than under Biden, who frequently trumpets his family roots in Ireland and sprinkles quotes from Irish poems through his speeches.

Varadkar’s day will start with breakfast at Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence, with “eggs Saint Patrick” on the menu, according to the White House. Varadkar and Biden will then have lunch at the US Capitol, hosted by Republican speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy.

At the White House, Varadkar will then present Biden with the traditional shamrock – a sprig of clover representing Ireland. Entertaining the revelers will be Irish pop star Niall Horan, a former member of mega boy band One Direction, now a singer-songwriter.

There will be weightier issues on the table, however.

Biden says he will visit Ireland and the British north soon – possibly to mark the 25th anniversary of the US-brokered Good Friday Agreement, which ended the violent unrest known as the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The Biden administration watched closely as Britain, Ireland, the European Union and leaders of the British province of Northern Ireland hashed out a compromise – the Windsor Framework – on how to manage cross-border trade, now that Britain is out of the EU, which includes Ireland.

Biden and Varadkar will stress their “support for the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement as we approach its 25th anniversary and welcome the recent agreement between the UK and EU on the Windsor Framework as an important step in preserving the Agreement’s peace dividend,” the White House said.

Invitation to Northern Ireland

Some 32 million Americans – almost 10 percent – claim ancestral roots in Ireland.

Given the long history, the fates of the island country and the troubled northern province play outsized roles in US politics.

Biden on Monday said he intends to visit both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who met Biden in California this week, said he was inviting him to Northern Ireland to “commemorate the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.”

“I know it’s something very special and personal to you. We’d love to have you,” Sunak said.

Expectations have been that Biden was waiting for the complex dispute over EU-British trade on the island of Ireland to be resolved before he planned a visit. That appears now to be in place, although there are still wrinkles.

The head of the biggest pro-British Northern Irish party, the DUP, said Tuesday it would not rush on deciding whether to endorse the Windsor Framework.

“Whether the president visits or not, I have no arbitrary deadline here,” DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said on a visit of his own to Washington.

If the post-Brexit trade arrangement does get full backing from rival forces in Northern Ireland, that could pave the way for restarting a local power-sharing agreement between pro-British loyalists and the nationalist parties, which want to break away and reunite the province with the Republic of Ireland.

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