President Joe Biden on Monday accepted an invitation from British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to visit Northern Ireland on the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
March 14 (UPI) -- U.S. President Joe Biden will travel to Northern Ireland next month to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that ended the three-decade-long "troubles" in which 3,500 people died.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak invited Biden as they gathered in San Diego on Monday to finalize the new AUKUS defense pact between Australia, Britain and the United States.
"It's my intention to go -- to go to Northern Ireland and the Republic," Biden said.
The United States played a pivotal role in brokering the 1998 Good Friday Agreement with then-President Bill Clinton appointing Senator George Mitchell as his special envoy for Northern Ireland.
Mitchell went on to chair the peace talks between the British and Irish governments and politicians from both sides of the Northern Ireland divide that led to para-military groups laying down their weapons and the establishment of devolved power-sharing self-government.
Clinton at the time said the deal would open the way "for the people there to build a society based on enduring peace, justice and equality."
Sunak noted that he was aware the Good Friday agreement is "something that's very special and personal" to Biden, whose Irish roots can be traced back to County Mayo and Country Louth in the Republic of Ireland.
The visit also comes on the heels of Sunak reaching a compromise deal with the European Union involving Northern Ireland last month.
The Windsor Framework, signed by Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in London Feb. 27, removes a major Brexit stumbling block that has poisoned relations with the European Union and left Northern Ireland effectively without a government for the past 10 months.
The Democratic Unionist Party, the second largest party in Northern Ireland, has refused to participate in a power-sharing government with Sinn Fein, the largest party, since May in protest over the protocol which they argue treats Northern Ireland differently than other parts of Britain.
The protocol, designed to avoid a hard land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU, moves the border with the EU to the middle of the Irish Sea instead -- preventing free movement of goods from other parts of Britain.
The framework removes that border with a customs check-free "green" lane for goods destined for Northern Ireland and a "red" lane for goods passing through the province en route to the Irish Republic and establishes an arbitration panel made up of Northern Ireland and EU judges.
Biden had expressed discontent with the dispute, which had placed his potential involvement with the Good Friday Agreement ceremonies in doubt.
He is also due to receive politicians from both sides of the Irish border in the White House on Friday as part of the annual St. Patrick's Day commemorations held across the United States.