Biden Face Political Criticism Tense in Northern Ireland
On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden entered the political crucible of Northern Ireland, using a quick visit to highlight the advantages of long-term peace and investment, but already coming under fire from hardliners who support the United Kingdom.
25 years after a US-brokered peace agreement, Biden came with the British-ruled province once again engulfed in political and sectarian squalls. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had greeted him late at night in the stormy weather.
The Irish-American president was scheduled to meet Sunak and greet the heads of the competing political parties in Northern Ireland before making an address at Ulster University’s recently opened campus in the heart of Belfast.
The goal of Biden’s trip, which includes three days in his ancestral country of Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, he said on Tuesday, was to “keep the peace” in Northern Ireland and break the political impasse.
Senior members of the pro-UK Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which is under pressure to restore local power-sharing, however, struck observers as being remarkably undiplomatic regarding the president.
Biden was dubbed “anti-British” by DUP MP Sammy Wilson, who also charged that the country’s second Catholic president “made his antipathy towards Protestants in particular very well known.”
Nigel Dodds, a different DUP lawmaker, asserted that any mediation efforts would be fruitless.
According to him, we are not under any pressure from an American government that is so obviously pro-nationalist. He made this statement to the publication Daily Telegraph.
A Piece of my Soul
A crucial component of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was devolved administration in Belfast, but it was abandoned 14 months ago due to the DUP’s vehement opposition to post-Brexit trade agreements in Northern Ireland.
The party has yet to support the new trading conditions and permit the return of Belfast’s Stormont assembly, despite Britain and the European Union having agreed to reform them earlier this year.
However, the White House stated that Biden’s visit will symbolize the “tremendous progress” made since the April 1998 accords, which largely put an end to military fighting between militants who supported Ireland and Britain.
Joe Kennedy III, a member of the Irish-American Kennedy family who was named special envoy for economic matters in Northern Ireland and will spend several days in Belfast, is part of Biden’s entourage, according to his supporters.
According to Amanda Sloat, Senior Director for Europe at the National Security Council, “the president’s record suggests that he is not anti-British.”
“The president has been very actively involved in the peace process in Northern Ireland during his career, going back to when he was a senator.”
She said he would convey to the DUP and other parties that he had “broad support for the return of regional government” in addition to “strong support for seeing the truce process move forward.”
After spending less than 24 hours in Northern Ireland, Biden will travel to Ireland, which he describes as “part of my soul,” where he will pay visits to the towns where his family lived in the 19th century.
A Pipe Bomb
North of the border, sectarian violence is still a problem, and in advance of Biden’s visit, the British security agency MI5 raised the region’s terrorism threat level.
In Londonderry, commonly known as Derry, hardcore nationalists held an unlawful march on Monday, during which masked teenagers attacked police vehicles with petrol bombs.
Four alleged pipe bombs were reportedly found at a cemetery in the city’s Creggan neighborhood, according to police in Northern Ireland on Tuesday.
According to police, “all of these devices were found in the same area where clothing from participants in (Monday’s) unannounced Easter parade was removed and burned.”
Biden has dismissed any security worries, and he will witness firsthand how significantly growth has changed Belfast since 1998.
2018 saw the debut of Biden’s five-star hotel in Belfast.
Prior to 1998, the neighboring Europa, which had been repeatedly bombarded by the paramilitary Irish Republican Army, was the only site for dignitaries to stay while they were in town.
According to Ulster University’s Deirdre Heenan, who teaches social policy, DUP hardliners are “uncomfortable with how he (Biden) wears his Irishness on his sleeve.”
But she continued, “We cannot afford to turn our back on such an engaged advocate for a small place, and one who has just appointed an economic envoy.”