Biden and Sunak Holding Talks in Belfast as US President Commemorates Good Friday Agreement


The US president is on a four-day visit to the island of Ireland where he has said his top priority is to “make sure the Irish accords and the Windsor Agreement stay in place, keep the peace”.

Joe Biden is holding talks with Rishi Sunak this morning after arriving in Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Sunak greeted Mr Biden after Air Force One landed at Belfast International Airport last night for the start of the US president’s four-day visit to the island of Ireland.

And the pair are now meeting over coffee, with the US president telling reporters he was in the city to “listen”.

Downing Street said the leaders would discuss “the UK and US’s extensive and deep relationship, evidenced by collaborative UK and US investment in Northern Ireland’s economy and people”.

The senior director for Europe at the US National Security Council, Amanda Sloat, also told journalists the “focus” of the meeting would be on the region, “as well as touching on the war in Ukraine”, and that she did not “anticipate” they would talk about any trade deal between the UK and US.

But the meeting comes amid ongoing paralysis in the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont – established in the peace deal in 1998 – with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refusing to re-join the power sharing agreement over the UK government’s Brexit agreement.

The US president will later meet the leaders of Northern Ireland’s five main political parties after holding talks with Mr Sunak – but the White House said there will not be a formal group meeting with them all.

Following these meetings, Mr Biden will deliver an address at Ulster University’s new £350m Belfast campus where his remarks will commemorate the Good Friday Agreement – the deal that largely ended 30 years of bloodshed between republicans and loyalists.

Sources told Sky News’ deputy political editor Sam Coates that the president is expected to dangle investment cash for the region during his speech, but only if Stormont is up and running again.

He said: “The implied message to the DUP will be get back into power sharing and the billions will flow. If not, your constituents miss out.”

Mr Sunak will not attend Mr Biden’s keynote speech, with Downing Street on Tuesday denying that the engagement between the pair would be “low-key”.

Speaking to reporters before his departure, Mr Biden said that his top priority was to “make sure the Irish accords and the Windsor Agreement stay in place, keep the peace”.

His son Hunter Biden and sister Valerie Biden Owen are believed to be accompanying him for the trip.

A major security operation will be in place for Mr Biden’s Northern Ireland visit at an estimated cost of £7m.

Around 300 officers from other parts of the UK will travel to the area to help police a series of events to mark the anniversary.

Mr Biden will travel across the border to Ireland later today where he will tour Carlingford Castle in County Louth, an area to which he has traced his ancestral roots.

Then it’s off to Dublin, where he is expected to visit Irish President Michael D Higgins on Thursday.

Mr Biden will take part in a tree-planting ceremony and ringing of the Peace Bell at the president’s official residence, Aras an Uachtarain.

Following that ceremony, he will meet the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and address the Irish parliament.

A banquet dinner at Dublin Castle will follow on Thursday evening.

The president’s trip will end with a visit to County Mayo on Friday, where he has connected with distant cousins.

A descendant of Irish immigrants to the United States, Mr Biden will deliver remarks at St Muredach’s Cathedral in Ballina, County Mayo, to which his great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt sold 27,000 bricks in 1827.

The bricks were used to build the cathedral and their sale helped to fund Mr Blewitt’s passage to the US with his family in 1851.

Source: Sky News