On the first day of his visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland, President Biden called for a return to power sharing in the North.
The timing of Biden’s trip is to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Peace Agreement, which ended thirty years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
During a speech at Ulster University in Belfast on Wednesday, Biden said he hoped it was not “too presumptuous” of him to say that “the democratic institutions” established by the Good Friday agreement are critical to the future of Northern Ireland.
Adding that it’s a decision “for you to make, not for me to make,” Biden said, “I hope the assembly and the executive will soon be restored. That’s a judgment for you to make, and I hope it happens, along with institutions that facilitate north/south and east/west relations, all of which are vital pieces of the Good Friday agreement.”
Biden also sat down with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Belfast. Ahead of their meeting Amanda Sloat, senior director for the National Security Council, said it would be an opportunity for the pair “to discuss the tremendous progress that has been made here in Northern Ireland, as well as how the U.S. can continue working…to be a partner for peace and to support continued economic development in Northern Ireland.”
Brexit, which was passed by referendum on June 23, 2016, has since tested the Good Friday agreement. New tensions over trade and border disputes have arisen since the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.
A new joint agreement between the U.K., Northern Ireland and the EU, called the Windsor Framework, aims to tamp down the heat, but tensions remain heightened nonetheless.
On Twitter, Biden said, “The lesson of the Good Friday Agreement is this: In times when things seem fragile or easily broken—that is when hope and hard work are needed most.”
He added, “To the young people of Northern Ireland—Your history is our history. Your future is our future. It’s hard to communicate just how deeply invested in your success people across the United States are.”
Next, Biden travels to Dublin for several days in the Republic of Ireland, including visits to several of his ancestral homes.