Belfast must revive power-sharing to thwart ‘enemies of peace,’ Biden tells divided leaders

Belfast must revive power-sharing to thwart ‘enemies of peace,’ Biden tells divided leaders
Опубликовано: Wednesday, 12 April 2023 12:59

‘Democracy needs champions,’ Biden tells still-divided corner of the United Kingdom.

BELFAST – Northern Ireland must seize the opportunities of the Good Friday Agreement so that “the enemies of peace will not prevail,” U.S. President Joe Biden told local leaders in a speech overshadowed by the region’s failure to sustain a unity government as the 1998 peace deal proposed.

Seated side by side in front of Biden were the leaders of Northern Ireland’s five main parties, who had just chatted – briefly and separately – with the president on his first visit since 1991 to this still-divided corner of the United Kingdom.

Four of Northern Ireland’s leaders, spanning the spectrum from the Irish republican Sinn Féin to moderate British unionists, want to form a new cross-community government at Stormont overlooking Belfast as the U.S.-brokered peace deal intended.

But the pivotal fifth leader, Jeffrey Donaldson of the hard-line Democratic Unionist Party, is refusing to permit this because his party still opposes how the U.K.’s Brexit deal with the European Union treats Northern Ireland separately from the rest of the U.K. Under the current power-sharing rules, no Stormont coalition can be formed without the Democratic Unionists, the largest party on the British side of the community here.

“Democracy needs champions,” Biden told an audience of several hundred inside the central atrium of Ulster University in central Belfast. “As a friend I hope it’s not too presumptuous of me to say, but I believe the democratic institutions established in the Good Friday Agreement remain critical for the future of Northern Ireland.”

Without singling out Donaldson or the DUP, Biden said power-sharing across the sectarian divide was the only way to ensure “that the enemies of peace will not prevail, that Northern Ireland will not go back, pray God.”

Referring to the attempted murder last month of an off-duty police officer by Irish Republican Army die-hards opposed to the Good Friday deal, Biden called it “a hard reminder there will always be those who seek to destroy rather than rebuild. But the lesson of the Good Friday Agreement is this: In times when things seem fragile or easily broken, that is when hope and hard work are needed the most.”

Donaldson avoided any direct criticism of Biden, who is strongly viewed here as biased in favor of the Irish nationalist side.

But while he welcomed the visit, he told reporters immediately after the speech that it did not "change the political dynamic in Northern Ireland."

Donaldson said he would continue to press the U.K. government to "go further in terms of protecting Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom and our ability to trade within the U.K. internal market."

Senior party lieutenants and previous leaders were more forthright, dismissing Biden’s potential role as a neutral peacebroker.

Donaldson’s predecessor as DUP leader, Arlene Foster, said Biden “won’t put any pressure on the Democratic Unionist Party at all, quite the reverse actually, because he’s seen by so many people as simply pro-republican and pro-nationalist.”

Related items

Resetting the relationship: Where will EU-UK talks lead?

Tuesday, 16 July 2024 06:52

The UK’s new Minister for Europ

In UK’s ‘new age of hope’ rejoining EU ‘is not going to happen’

Friday, 05 July 2024 10:28

In an exit poll published the m

​European Parliament Election Unlikely to Answer the Question of Europe

Tuesday, 28 May 2024 08:10

​The European Parliament is 45

UK Prime Minister Sunak calls an election six months early

Wednesday, 22 May 2024 16:53

Despite being well behind in th

A new bridge for young Europeans on both sides of the Channel

Monday, 06 May 2024 14:04

Strengthening ties between youn