President Biden on Wednesday gave a message of hope in Northern Ireland while marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, expressing his strong support for the peace deal.
“The lesson of the Good Friday Agreement is this, in times when things seem fragile or easily broken, that is when hope and hard work are needed the most. That’s when we must make our theme repair,” the president said at Ulster University in Belfast.
The Good Friday Agreement, which was struck on April 10, 1998, ended the conflict, often called “the Troubles,” between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.
Biden pledged that the United States will stand with Northern Ireland to build the future for its young people.
“Young people in Northern Ireland are on the cutting edge of sectors that are going to define so much of the future, cyber, technology, clean energy, life sciences, here in Northern Ireland,” he said.
He said he has tasked Joe Kennedy, U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland for economic affairs, to bring more business and investment in Northern Ireland. Kennedy will lead a trade delegation of American companies in Northern Ireland later this year.
“The world is changing, it’s changing drastically and it presents enormous opportunity but also significant dangers,” Biden said.
The president also expressed his support for the Windsor Framework, saying that it “addresses the practical realities of Brexit” and called it “an essential step,” to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is preserved. The framework is a new trade agreement aimed at allowing goods to flow freely to Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.
The president met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of his speech on Wednesday. , The two leaders reaffirmed their shared commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, according to a readout from the White House. They also discussed how they welcome the Windsor Framework and they expressed their continued support for Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.
Biden arrived in Belfast on Tuesday evening and left for Dublin following his speech on Wednesday.
In his speech, Biden hailed people of Irish heritage in the U.S., noting that an Irishman designed and built the White House. Actor James Martin from “An Irish Goodbye” was in the audience and Biden said he had met with him and took a photograph before his remarks.
He also reminisced about the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, which was reached when he was a senator.
“It took long, hard years of work to get to this place,” he added. “It took people all across Northern Ireland to make the choice to work for a brighter, shared future.”
“It wasn’t easy,” Biden said.
He said that the agreement “shifted the political gravity in our world.”
“Peace was not inevitable, we can’t ever forget that,” he added.
Additionally, Biden said there’s a large population in the U.S. that cares about what happens in Northern Ireland and is invested in it.
“It’s hard to communicate just how deeply invested in your success that people across the United States are,” he said, adding that family ties in the U.S. to Ireland “run very deep.”
–Updated at 12:26 p.m.
Source: The Hill