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Biden to visit Ireland, mark Good Friday accord anniversary

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will travel to the United Kingdom and Ireland this month, marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday accord, the White House said on Wednesday.

The U.S.-brokered Good Friday Agreement helped end sectarian violence in Ireland.

Biden will first travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., from April 11-12 “to mark the tremendous progress since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 25 years ago” and to underscore U.S. readiness to support Northern Ireland’s economic potential, the White House said. Biden then will travel to the Republic of Ireland from April 12-14.

Signed in 1998, the Good Friday Agreement helped end sectarian violence that had raged for three decades over the issue of Northern Ireland unifying with Ireland or remaining part of the U.K.

But it has come under increasing stress following the U.K.’s exit from the European Union. The recent accord known as the Windsor Framework between the U.K. and the EU addresses some of the issues that arose around commerce and goods that cross the Irish Sea from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Biden, who is of Irish descent and often makes reference to his roots there and often quotes Irish poets, recently praised the Windsor Framework as an important step in maintaining the peace accord, though Northern Ireland’s political leaders have called for changes.

“It’s a vital, vital step and that’s going to help ensure all the people in Northern Ireland have an opportunity to realize their full potential,” Biden said of the framework during remarks at a Capitol Hill luncheon to mark St. Patrick’s Day.

Biden hosted Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a tradition scuttled by the coronavirus pandemic over the past few years. Last year, the prime minister at the time, Micheál Martin, made it to Washington but came down with COVID-19 and had to isolate inside the Blair House across the street from the White House. But the presentation of an engraved bowl of shamrocks was sent ahead to Washington, ensuring that a tradition that began in 1952 continued uninterrupted.

This year, Varadkar went to a breakfast at the vice president’s home, met with Biden in the Oval Office, went to the Capitol for a lunch with lawmakers and attended a reception hosted by Biden.

The last US president to visit Belfast was Barack Obama in 2013.

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