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POLITICS

Why is Joe Biden in Ireland and why is this country so important for him?

The president is proud of his Irish roots and he has publicly spoken about his family’s connections to the island ahead of his visit.

Update:
The president is proud of his Irish roots and he has publicly spoken about his family’s connections to the island ahead of his visit.
CLODAGH KILCOYNEREUTERS

US President Joe Biden is out of the country at present, taking a flight to Northern Ireland to commemorate 25 years of Irish peace, beginning in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement. He will spend the first day in the north before travelling to the Republic of Ireland further south.

Speaking at Ulster University, the president articulated his hopes for the future of the island.

“Let’s celebrate 25 extraordinary years by recommitting to renewal, repair, by making this exceptional peace a birth right of every child in Northern Ireland for all the days to come,” he said. “This place is transformed by peace, made technicolour by peace, made whole by peace.”

The Good Friday Agreement signed between Britain and Ireland in 1998 ended a period known as “The Troubles”, a decades long civil war in Northern Ireland between the Unionists, who wished to remain part of the United Kingdom, and Republicans, who wished for the territory to unite with the rest of the Irish Republic. 3,500 people were killed.

Since peace was attained there has been a period of relative stability. However, geopolitical changes such as Brexit have put the agreement under pressure. At present, there is no sitting government of Northern Ireland as the largest union party, the DUP, has boycotted the assembly due to agreements made between the British government and the European Union.

In his speech Biden mentioned the necessity for the Northern Irish government return to the power sharing agreement made back in 1998.

“Northern Ireland will not go back [to violence],” he said.

Why is the country so important to him?

Joe Biden is proud of his Irish heritage. His great-great-grandfather from his mother’s side emigrated from County Mayo, Ireland, to the United States in the 19th century.

Some 30 million Americans claim an Irish heritage. Biden himself is a catholic and has poked fun at this aspect of his heritage on a number of occasions.

Biden has had a long-standing interest and involvement in issues related to Ireland and Northern Ireland. During his time as a senator and later as vice president and president, Biden was a strong advocate for the Good Friday Agreement.