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White House

Biden extols Windsor Framework and praises NI politicians for standing 'shoulder to shoulder' for peace

The US President and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar held an hour-long meeting this afternoon.

LAST UPDATE | 17 Mar 2023

US PRESIDENT JOE Biden has reaffirmed his “strongly support” for the Windsor Framework and told a room full of Northern Ireland’s politicians that they should stand “shoulder to shoulder” for peace. 

Biden made the comments at the luncheon this afternoon after he had held a one-on-one meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. 

As part of a full schedule today relating to Ireland-US relations, Biden met with representatives of the five largest political parties in Northern Ireland, the first time a US president has done so. 

The DUP is consulting internally about whether it should support the Windsor Framework and Biden’s comments today will increase the pressure on the DUP to allow the institutions to return. 

The Windsor Framework was a deal struck between UK and EU negotiators as a way of easing trade between Britain and Northern Ireland whilst also allowing Northern Ireland have access to the EU’s single market. 

Northern Ireland’s First Minister-designate Michelle O’Neill said this week that Biden has been invited to speak at the Stormont Assembly.

The Assembly is not currently in operation however as the DUP has effectively blocked it from sitting in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol.

president-joe-biden-meets-with-irelands-taoiseach-leo-varadkar-in-the-oval-office-of-the-white-house-friday-march-17-2023-in-washington-ap-photoevan-vucci President Joe Biden meets with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Speaking alongside Varadkar in the Oval Office, Biden said that he is looking forward to “a celebration” of the Good Friday Agreement during his upcoming visit to Ireland .

Biden also spoke about Ireland’s assistance to Ukraine in the context of Russia’s ongoing invasion. 

“It means a great deal speaking out against Russia’s brutal aggression,” he said.

Biden is set to travel to Ireland next month as part of a series of events commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

He said he was “looking forward to having a celebration together” and referenced the work of his party colleague George Mitchell. 

Biden also quoted The Municipal Gallery Revisited by WB Yeats, saying:

Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, And say my glory was I had such friends.

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“I very strongly supported the Windsor Framework, which I know you do too,” President Biden said.

Speaking after President Biden, Varadkar spoke in Irish to say that he was thankful for the President’s support in relation to Brexit, adding that the country was looking forward to Biden’s trip to Ireland. 

Speaking about Ukraine, Varadkar said:

America is at its best when it stands with its European partners in protecting freedom and democracy. 

Speaking after their meeting had concluded, Varadkar said that it was “a very warm meeting” between the two leaders and he added that Biden was “extremely well informed on Irish affairs”. 

“We had a chance to talk about the situation in Ukraine, we had a chance to speak about Northern Ireland, he was very keen to see the institutions up again in Northern Ireland,” he said. 

Asked whether Biden’s visit could be a catalyst for getting Stormont up and running, Varadkar said he believes that is a “separate issue” but that he is “hugely informed” and “would very much like the Good Friday Agreement operating like it should”. 

Capitol Hill

After the White House engagements, Varadkar and Biden travelled separately to the US Capitol where they attended a luncheon hosted by Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. 

During lunch, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson MLA and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD were seated at the same table and heard Biden again extol the Windsor Framework. 

“Northern Ireland took a lot of brave steps so their children could have a better future. The Northern Ireland leaders that were there today, let me say how important it was to see you standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Chief Constable affirming your commitment to the future following the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector Caldwell.”

He added: 

“We all have to work together to protect peace and stability and I was in San Diego with the British Prime Minister and we talked about the Windsor Framework, it’s a vital step so all the people in Northern Ireland can achieve their full potential.” 

Varadkar also spoke about the need for politicians to work together to fulfil the promise of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Now we have to complete that work to fulfil the agreement’s promise not just of peace but also reconciliation, build a shared island together,” he said.

I know the people of Northern Ireland want to see their political assembly and devolved government back up and running, and their politicians working to improve their lives.

“So much has been achieved since 1998. Today, new generations of young people are growing up with no memory of the conflict that their parents endured and, as somebody who grew up in the 80s and 90s when political violence was an almost everyday occurrence, that is something to be profoundly grateful for.”

“I believe there are now incredible opportunities for economic development in Northern Ireland, especially with the potential of the Windsor Framework recently agreed with the European Commission and the UK Government,” An Taoiseach added. 

- With reporting by Christina Finn in Washington DC and Press Association


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