White House officials have visited Belfast over a possible trip by the US President next month – The Irish Times

White House officials have visited Belfast in advance of a possible trip by US President Joe Biden next month. Officials and members of the Secret Service are understood to have arrived in Northern Ireland over the past weekend to scout possible locations for the expected visit. They also toured sites in Dublin and elsewhere in the Republic as part of planning a multi-destination visit to the island.

While no dates have yet been set for a visit, a trip, if confirmed, is expected to take place in April, when the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement takes place.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is set to meet Mr Biden in Washington DC next week as part of the annual St. Patrick’s program of events in the US capital. Political leaders from Northern Ireland will also be in Washington next week and some believe this could be the time when a Presidential visit to Ireland will be confirmed and announced.

Former US President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are expected to attend events in Belfast next month to commemorate the deal that largely ended the unrest. Other key figures involved in securing the deal will also be visited.

There has been speculation that Mr Biden’s visit may not materialize if the power-sharing impasse at Stormont lasts in April. The DUP is blocking the operation of the institutions created by the agreement in protest at Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit protocol. The party is currently considering whether to accept a new UK-EU deal on trade arrangements for Northern Ireland – the Windsor Framework – and return to Stormont.

It is understood that the decentralization impasse will not be a determining factor for US officials planning Mr. Biden’s possible visit. The US President has a deep affection for his Irish heritage and a visit to the island has been expected since his election.

Mr. Biden can trace his ancestry back to the west and east coasts of Ireland, specifically Ballina in Co Mayo and the Cooley Peninsula in Co Louth.

His great-great-grandfather, Owen Finnegan, emigrated to the United States from Cooley, while another great-great-grandfather, Patrick Blewitt, was born in Ballina and emigrated to the United States during the 1850 famine. Any visit to Ireland as President would likely involve aspects related to his lineage. – PA

https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/2023/03/10/white-house-officials-have-visited-belfast-over-possible-trip-by-us-president-next-month/ White House officials have visited Belfast over a possible trip by the US President next month – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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