Biden to set out ‘shared vision’ for US-Irish ties in speech to Parliament

The US president will also meet with Michael D Higgins and Leo Varadkar during engagements in Ireland on Thursday.

Dominic McGrath
Thursday 13 April 2023 11:15 BST
US President Joe Biden at Carlingford Castle, Co Louth, during his trip to the island of Ireland (PA)
US President Joe Biden at Carlingford Castle, Co Louth, during his trip to the island of Ireland (PA) (PA Wire)

Joe Biden will set out a “shared vision” for the future US-Irish relationship when he addresses the Irish Parliament, the White House has said.

The visit by the US president to the island of Ireland continues on Thursday, and he will address both houses of the Oireachtas as part of a series of engagements.

Mr Biden, who the White House said had the “time of his life” as he toured Co Louth on Wednesday, will also visit Irish President Michael D Higgins at his official residence in Phoenix Park, and have a meeting with Irish premier Leo Varadkar at nearby Farmleigh House.

At Farmleigh, the president will be invited to watch a sports demonstration by young Gaelic games players.

US National Security Council senior director Amanda Sloat told reporters that Mr Biden will have a “good discussion” with Mr Higgins and the Taoiseach about Northern Ireland.

“The president will be very interested in hearing from both of them, how they see the situation and developments there,” she said.

“Ukraine is something I expect will be high on the agenda in both of those meetings, given Ireland’s participation in various aspects of US support for Ukraine.”

She said Mr Biden’s address to TDs and senators will refer to areas of close partnership between both countries and “setting out a shared vision for the future”.

Mr Biden will be accompanied to the Irish Parliament by Marie Heaney, the widow of his favourite poet, Seamus Heaney.

Nine members of the US Congress, one senator as well as Mr Biden’s sister Valerie and son Hunter will attend the event, as well as former Irish president Mary McAleese, two former taoisigh, Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny, Northern Ireland political leaders and Larysa Gerasko, ambassador of Ukraine to Ireland.

Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail told RTE Radio’s Morning Ireland programme: “She (Mrs Heaney) was a special invitation from the president, he was most anxious that she would be present as part of his delegation because we know he is absolutely besotted by the work of Seamus Heaney, and has quoted him extensively over the years, and we would expect to hear him quoted on a number of occasions today.

“Unfortunately, the schedule for the president is extremely tight so it involves his arrival, his greeting those on the receiving line, his address and his immediate departure.”

Mr Biden, who is on a four-day trip to the island, will attend a banquet in his honour at Dublin Castle hosted by Taoiseach Mr Varadkar in the evening.

His first full day of engagements on Wednesday began in Northern Ireland, where he delivered a keynote address in Belfast.

In his speech to Ulster University, Mr Biden expressed the hope of a return to powersharing at Stormont, saying a stable devolved government could deliver an economic windfall for the region.

His visit north of the border came as the region marks the 25th anniversary of the landmark Good Friday peace accord that created Stormont’s institutions.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald praised the US president’s speech, but told RTE Radio 1: “The comments were balanced, but I don’t think you could miss, either, the very clear statement that the institutional apparatus needs to be back up and running.”

After his address in Belfast, Mr Biden travelled to Dublin and from there to Co Louth, where he can trace some of his Irish ancestors.

People lined the streets in Carlingford and Dundalk to cheer and wave US flags as Mr Biden arrived.

In a speech at a pub in Dundalk, he described how he felt as though he had come home.

His remarks also included an apparent gaffe when he appeared to confuse the All Blacks rugby team with the Black and Tans, a contentious police unit from Ireland’s War of Independence era.

Mr Biden was speaking at the Windsor Bar in Dundalk, when he referred to the shamrock tie that he was wearing.

The Black and Tans is a name for additional part-time officers recruited to bolster Royal Irish Constabulary numbers in Ireland during the War of Independence, many of whom gained a violent reputation.

Asked about that gaffe, Ms Sloat said: “It was clear what the president was referring to, it was certainly clear to his cousins setting next to him.”

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