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Joe Biden to hold talks with Rishi Sunak in Belfast as part of Ireland visit

Joe Biden to hold talks with Rishi Sunak in Belfast as part of Ireland visit

The US president will also give a keynote speech at Ulster University

US president Joe Biden will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Belfast on Wednesday after arriving in Northern Ireland on Tuesday night as part of a historic four-day trip to the island of Ireland.

Mr Sunak greeted the US president after Air Force One landed at RAF Aldergrove on Tuesday night ahead of engagements across the week to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which largely brought an end to the Troubles in Northern Ireland in 1998.

The two leaders met briefly before the president drove away in an armoured car amid a scattering of snow.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris was also present as Mr Biden alighted from the aircraft with US Special Envoy for Northern Ireland Joe Kennedy.

Later, the leaders of Northern Ireland’s main political parties will have the opportunity to engage with Mr Biden before he delivers an address at Ulster University’s new £350 million Belfast campus.

The Stormont powersharing Assembly, which was established in the peace deal, is not currently operating due to a protest over post-Brexit trading arrangements by the DUP, the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland.

However, the White House said there will not be a formal group meeting with the leaders.

Mr Sunak will not attend Mr Biden’s keynote speech, with Downing Street on Tuesday denying that the engagement between the pair would be “low-key”.

Speaking to reporters before his departure, Mr Biden said that his top priority was to “make sure the Irish accords and the Windsor Agreement stay in place, keep the peace”.

His son Hunter Biden and sister Valerie Biden Owen are believed to be accompanying him for the trip.

A major security operation will be in place for Mr Biden’s visit, with more than 300 officers from the rest of the UK being drafted into Northern Ireland.

The PSNI has also warned of significant traffic disruption in Belfast during the presidential visit, with a number of roads in the city centre already closed.

Mr Biden will also travel to the Republic of Ireland, where he will carry out a number of engagements during his four-day stay, including a speech in Dublin as well as visits to ancestral homelands.

After he leaves Belfast on Wednesday, Mr Biden will cross the border to attend engagements in Co Louth.

The president has traced his ancestral roots to the area and he will tour Carlingford Castle in the county before spending the night in Dublin.

He is then expected to visit Irish President Michael D Higgins on Thursday.

It has been announced that Dublin’s Phoenix Park will be closed for 24 hours from 5pm on Wednesday to facilitate the visit.

Mr Higgins’ official residence is within the park’s grounds.

The White House said Mr Biden will take part in a tree-planting ceremony and ringing of the Peace Bell at the president’s official residence, Aras an Uachtarain.

Following that ceremony, he will meet again with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, whom Mr Biden recently hosted for St Patrick’s Day.

Mr Biden will address the Irish parliament and attend a banquet dinner at Dublin Castle on Thursday evening.

The president’s trip will conclude with a visit to Co Mayo, where he has also connected with distant cousins, on Friday.

He will tour the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock and visit the North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Centre’s family history research unit.

He will then make a public speech at St Muredach’s Cathedral in Ballina.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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