Prospect of Joe Biden visit to Ireland rising along with hopes for solution to Protocol row

A trip to Ireland this year by US president Joe Biden is confidently expected by Government sources.

ut there are divided opinions on whether it could coincide with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement on April 10 next.

“That sounds a bit soon, and we have had no advance indications from the American side,” said a Coalition source.

But another aide in Government said: “If there was a deal on the protocol that led to the resumption of the Northern Ireland Executive, Assembly and institutions, then we would certainly expect that the President would intend to be there.”

Another source said: “It is conceivable in the event of a protocol deal and the Executive up and running.”

A seal-the-deal visit to Belfast may or may not be part of a wider trip to Ireland. A double visit is certainly possible — one that would take in Belfast, probably twinned with London and a meeting with British prime minister Rishi Sunak, whom he has so far kept at arm’s length.

Westminster sources see this as linked to the protocol impasse, hence any resolution would likely see President Biden reward London through his presence at a renewal of the so-called ‘Special Relationship,’ now more important in a time of war on the European continent.

Irish officials had so far been anticipating a summer visit, a time when US Presidents with Irish links traditionally make a trip — usually in the year of a Presidential election, or the year before. President Biden appears ready to seek a second term in November 2024.

US Ambassador Claire Cronin said last year that President Biden would be making a visit to Ireland in 2023, while he himself has said “try and stop me” — with an open invitation to come to his ancestral homeland once more.

President Biden previously visited Ireland in 2016 when Vice President, touring Newgrange in Co Meath and visiting his great-great-grandfather’s grave in Louth. He also met President Higgins and played golf with former Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Co. Mayo over the course of a six-day trip.

He came again on a private family tour in September 2017, when out of office as a result of the Trump-Pence election in November 2016. But he also held informal talks with political leaders in Dublin at the Shelbourne Hotel.

A highly-placed US source said: “Nothing is decided. The White House has not made any detailed plans.

“A visit might be expected on all sides with a resolution to the protocol deadlock and the renewal of all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. It is hinging on that.

“But any dates and venues are pure speculation.”
Another source here claimed an early visit could involve Belfast to Dublin with add-ons in the Republic. On the other hand, it could be a Dublin to Belfast pairing.

As to suggestions that April is being looked at, “it is making a mountain out of a molehill at the moment”, the source said. He dismissed the idea that there were active talks on an itinerary and event calendar already under way.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach confirmed that Leo Varadkar would be refreshing Ireland’s “standing invitation” for President Biden to visit his homeland when he meets him for the shamrock ceremony in the White House next month.

He said he was not aware of any proposals at this stage.

Micheál Martin’s spokemsan said Mr Biden had previously expressed a strong desire to come to Ireland when he had a virtual meeting with the Tanáiste around St Patrick’s Day last year.

“President Biden’s travel arrangements are obviously a matter for him. He always has an open invitation to visit Ireland and the President has expressed a wish to come,” he said.

It is expected that President Biden would want to visit Mayo, if possible, because of his family connections to the Blewitt/Bluett clan. His links to Louth could also make a “stepping-stone” to a cross-border visit.

He has relatives in both Ballina and Carlingford, and it is possible the president could be accompanied by the first lady, Jill Biden.


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