US President Biden said it is his intention to visit Northern Ireland and Ireland next month following an invitation from UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a meeting in California on Monday, March 13.
“I look forward to our conversations and also importantly, to invite you to Northern Ireland, which hopefully you will be able to do and so we can commemorate the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement," Sunak said to Biden during a press briefing on Monday.
He added: “I know it’s something very special and personal to you. We’d love to have you over.”
Biden replied: “25 years? It seems like yesterday."
When asked by reporters if he will go to Northern Ireland, Biden said: "It is my intention to go to Northern Ireland and the Republic."
“It is my intention to go to Northern Ireland & the Republic.”
US President Joe Biden confirms plans to visit Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. #GFA25 pic.twitter.com/xDCtnTqKPe— Darran Marshall (@DarranMarshall) March 13, 2023
Biden’s comments came the day after Sunak told reporters, while en route to the US, that he was "keen" to invite the President to visit.
"He hasn’t confirmed yet," Sunak told reporters on Sunday, March 12, "but it will be something that, obviously, I’ll be talking to him about.
“Hopefully he will be able to make it, so that will be a nice way, we’ve got this very important milestone, to commemorate and celebrate – the 25th anniversary.
“That’s why the Windsor Framework was such a positive step.
“It was very important to me to try and bring resolution to some of the challenges the Protocol have been having on the ground in Northern Ireland and do the right thing for the people and businesses there.
“I think the Windsor Framework delivers that and has removed a major issue.
“What I’m concentrating on now is talking to everyone in Northern Ireland so we can find a positive way to move forward and get powersharing up and running – that’s my priority.
“Now, it’s lovely to have the opportunity to celebrate the incredible work of the Good Friday Agreement and the balance that it brought.
“Actually, it was that balance that had been disrupted. I think the Windsor Framework restores that balance.”
Sunak announced the Windsor Framework, aimed at resolving Brexit's Northern Ireland Protocol dilemma, on February 27 alongside President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Biden was among the politicians who welcomed the development.
There has been speculation that Biden, who regularly touts his Irish roots, would visit Ireland ever since he took office in January 2021, though the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April has heightened that speculation.
White House officials and Secret Service agents have already visited Belfast in advance of a potential trip, according to the PA news agency. The officials have also reportedly toured sites in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland as part of planning for a multiple-destination visit to the island of Ireland.
The Irish Examiner reported earlier this month that Biden is expected to visit Belfast and Dublin, as well as his ancestral home of Co Mayo and potentially Co Louth.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will arrive in the US on Tuesday, March 14 to attend St. Patrick’s Day engagements in Washington, DC, including meetings with Biden.
“It is expected the Taoiseach and the president will discuss the thriving bilateral relationship between Ireland and the US and the plans to continue developing trade and investment opportunities," a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said.
As well as the global economy and EU-US relations, "it is also expected that they will discuss the war in Ukraine and how both Ireland and the United States can continue their unwavering support for the Ukrainian people”, the spokesperson added.
On Thursday, March 16, Varadkar will speak at an event commemorating the Good Friday Agreement in Washington, DC organized by IrishCentral and the AOH.