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Biden seeks respite from US tensions with upcoming Irish visit


President Biden will get some measure of respite from domestic political strife when he visits his ancestral home of Ireland next week.

Biden is first traveling to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, on Tuesday and Wednesday. His visit will mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the peace accord that largely ended three decades of violence.

The president will later travel south of the border, visiting Dublin and two Irish counties, Louth and Mayo, to which he has family ties. 

He is expected to become the fourth American president to address the Irish parliament on Thursday, following in the footsteps of Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton.

Biden’s trip is not without some measure of controversy because it comes amid news that he will not attend the coronation of Britain’s King Charles III. The coronation is set for May 6 in London.

The White House is adamant no snub is intended — despite Biden’s often-stated pride in his Irish identity and the troubled history between the two nations. 

First lady Jill Biden will attend the British monarch’s coronation. President Eisenhower, who was the sitting president at the time of the last such ceremony, in 1953, did not attend.

Biden’s visit comes at a time when his poll ratings at home are mediocre. He is also grappling with a Republican majority that took control of the House in January, bringing increased scrutiny to Biden, his administration and his family.

A CNN/SSRS poll released Thursday showed Biden’s job performance winning the approval of just 42 percent of American respondents, while 57 percent disapproved. Only 32 percent said Biden deserves reelection to a second term — 5 points lower than an equivalent poll from December.

Biden can take some solace from his Irish trip, however — and not only for personal reasons.

The United States can claim real credit for its contribution to the Irish peace process. The process, though flawed, is still one of the more successful conflict-resolution efforts of recent decades.

The peace agreement was signed during Clinton’s time in office, and the 42nd president was deeply involved in bringing pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists together. The talks leading up to the agreement were chaired by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine).

The central element of the peace deal was the setting up of a devolved parliament and executive in Belfast. Right now, those bodies are not sitting because of unionist concerns over Brexit.

Biden’s visit will likely include some urging of the biggest party on the pro-British side of the divide, the Democratic Unionist Party, to re-enter those institutions.

Whether that particular effort is successful or not, the trip is likely to put some much-needed spring in Biden’s political step.

Watch The Hill’s Niall Stanage give a brief history of Irish politics and American involvement in the peace process in the video above.

Source: The Hill

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