John Kirby says Northern Ireland deal will boost ‘prosperity’
Joe Biden has been accused of “snubbing” the UK over his upcoming visit to Northern Ireland, with some MPs suggesting he does not care about Northern Ireland at all. Instead, it has been claimed Mr Biden planned the visit to advance his own political agenda. The US President announced he will be visiting Northern Ireland from 11 to 14 April, to coincide with the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
But he will not be attending the Coronation, taking place on May 6.
Conservative MP David Jones claimed the US President believes the visit “will be good for his re-election prospects”.
Meanwhile, a source inside the powerful European Research Group agreed that Mr Biden’s visit is bound up in his “domestic political agenda”, rather than “because he truly cares about the Good Friday Agreement”.
The source said his decision to visit Northern Ireland – while missing the Coronation – is a “very disappointing decision”, describing it as a “snub”.
In a statement, the White House said the President will travel to the United Kingdom and Ireland from 11-14 April adding that the trip would mark “the tremendous progress since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 25 years ago”.
Mr Biden has long been putting pressure on the UK to find a solution to the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol issue, previously warning Liz Truss’ Government against “efforts to undo” the protocol.
The UK signed a new agreement with the EU in February, the Windsor Framework, which was seen to be a major breakthrough on the issue.
But it did not do enough to persuade Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to return to the Stormont Assembly.
The party has been staging a boycott of the Assembly since February 2021 in protest of the hated Protocol.
Reacting to the news of Mr Biden’s visit, an ERG source told the Daily Express: “The inconvenient truth is that Stormont won’t be up and running because the simple fact is that the Windsor Framework does not have the support of the larger unionist party.
“He can come visit Northern Ireland all he likes, but the Democratic Unionist Party aren’t going to be pressured by anyone until Northern Ireland’s position within the Union is properly protected.
“However, we all know that his domestic political agenda is why he is visiting, not because he truly cares about the GFA.”
He added: “Regarding the Coronation, I have no clue what he is thinking.
“They can try and spin it all they want but it is still a snub.
“After all that we have done together, particularly regarding Ukraine, it seems like a very disappointing decision.”
Meanwhile, Eurosceptic MP David Jones added: “He’s been desperate to visit NI for the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement; no doubt he thinks it will be good for his re-election prospects.
“It’s a pity he can’t come to the Coronation but, given his age, perhaps that’s not too surprising.”
The Deputy Chairman of the European Research Group continued: “I do hope, however, that the First Lady will attend, out of respect to the US’s closest ally.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “delighted” about Mr Biden’s upcoming visit to Northern Ireland.
He said: “When we spoke recently in the White House, President Biden was clear that in celebrating the Good Friday Agreement, we should be looking ahead, not backwards.”
Mr Varadkar claimed the involvement of the United States and of President Biden personally had been “essential to the peace process in Ireland”.
He said: “From its earliest uncertain beginnings to the making of the Good Friday Agreement, in good days and bad, the US has always been at our side.
“So it’s fitting that President Biden will be here to mark this significant milestone with us.”
As a consolation for his decision to “snub” the Coronation, last week Mr Biden accepted an invitation for a state visit from King Charles III.
First Lady Jill Biden is set to represent the US at the Coronation in the President’s place.
Earlier today it was revealed that police in Northern Ireland had uncovered a terror plot planned to coincide with President Joe Biden’s visit.
Officials recently raised the terror threat level to “severe” as the Republic of Ireland and the UK prepare to celebrate the agreement which ended decades of sectarian violence.
Although the IRA agreed to the Good Friday Agreement, dissident splinter groups continue to oppose it and have stepped up activity in recent weeks.
This reportedly led the Police Service of Northern Ireland to conduct searches in the city of Derry, a hotspot for violence during the height of The Troubles.
An insider told the Belfast Telegraph that the British Army Bomb squad was in the city looking for bomb parts last weekend.
The source said: “They were looking for parts to make a bomb.
“The belief is that the New IRA was planning some sort of attack to coincide with Biden’s visit, similar to the mortar attack on the cops in Strabane last November.”
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