Good Friday Agreement: No fanfare as Joe Biden accepts Ireland visit invite


  • By Enda McClafferty
  • BBC News NI political editor, from Washington DC


Image source, Getty Images/Leon Neal

Image caption,

Joe Biden announced his visit in a joint press conference in California with Rishi Sunak

It was to be the high point of the week.

United States President Joe Biden flanked by the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) on St Patrick’s day in the White House announcing his first trip to Ireland since taking up office.

Just like President Barack Obama did back in 2011.

Instead it was a throwaway line at a news conference on the fringe of a nuclear submarine deal.

A line coughed up by the president after an invitation from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and a quick follow up question by a journalist.

There was no great fanfare and it was all done and dusted in seconds.

The timing clearly caught the Irish government by surprise.

Leo Varadkar wasn’t even in the country and the Twitter-happy taoiseach had this morning still not acknowledged the visit.

Maybe he is waiting to extend his own invitation for a presidential visit which has now already been confirmed.


He has been robbed of his big moment and instead team Sunak will chalk it up as yet another win for a prime minister on a roll.

Whatever happened to protocol? That might be the question being asked by team Varadkar this morning.

But the manner of the announcement however unplanned will be quickly forgotten when President Biden arrives on the island next month.

Good Friday Agreement anniversary

The exact date of his arrival and schedule may be released later this week but don’t be surprised if he turns up at Queens University to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

A series of events have been planned running from 17 April – a week after the official anniversary date.

The president could be the one to unveil a bust of former US Senator George Mitchell, who led the negotiations leading up to the 1998 deal.

It will be yet another opportunity for an American president to bask in the glory of a US-led success story as it marks a milestone.

The absence of a key plank of the deal – the Stormont executive and assembly – was never going to rob President Biden of his moment despite the political noise.

Though with or without an assembly sitting the political parties will be hoping to cash in on the presidential spotlight.

The economic potential of a Biden bounce will now be uppermost in the minds of those businesses and political leaders gathered in Washington this week.


After all he is coming to the “world’s most exciting economic zone”.

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