US President Joe Biden has landed in Northern Ireland ahead of a four-day visit to the island of Ireland to demonstrate his support for peace in the country and to honor his Irish ancestry.
President Biden was greeted by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Belfast International Airport on Tuesday evening, marking the beginning of a visit that is expected to combine delicate political choreography with economic pronouncements and events related to Biden’s Irish and Catholic heritage.
Before boarding Air Force One, Biden told reporters that he wanted to protect the Good Friday agreement, which was ratified 25 years ago this week, and support Sunak’s post-Brexit deal for the region. When asked about his priorities for the voyage, he responded :”Make sure the Irish accords and Windsor agreements stay in place. Keep the peace and that’s the main thing. It looks like we’re going to keep our fingers crossed .”
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, and Lord-Lieutenant David McCorkell, the King’s personal emissary for County Antrim, were also present.
The two leaders met momentarily before the president departed in an armored vehicle during a light snowfall.
The US entourage, which will include the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and a recently appointed economic envoy to Northern Ireland, Joseph Kennedy III, was accompanied by heavy security on both sides of the border.
Dozens of police and US secret service vehicles blocked off the saturated streets of central Belfast. As part of a £7 million security operation, hotel rooms were inspected by sniffer dogs and manhole covers were removed and inspected, with 300 additional police from the British mainland.