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Let us all march forward together, Biden urges Friends of Ireland gathering

Let us all march forward together, Biden urges Friends of Ireland gathering

President Joe Biden has urged a gathering of representatives from the US, Ireland and Northern Ireland to “march forward together”.

Politicians from across Ireland are visiting the US this week ahead of St Patrick’s Day, including the Stormont First and deputy First Ministers in office attending together for the first time in eight years.

It comes following the resurrection of powersharing government in Northern Ireland in January.

During the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon hosted by Speaker Mike Johnson on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, Mr Biden invited Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly to stand up for applause throughout the room.

Mr Biden commented: “Who would have thunk it … thankfully you’re here.

“Thanks to both of you for reminding us what possibilities there are as we work across the aisle and rise above longstanding disagreements,” he said.

“I think we stand at an inflection point, not only in American history but in world history where the decisions we make now are going to determine what the next three, four, five, six decades are going to look like, and I believe history is watching.

“Today let us resolve to march forward with each other and all those who seek a better future. Like our ancestors remember, no barrier is too thick or too strong for Ireland and the United States to get through, there is nothing our nations can’t do together when we work together.

Taoiseach visit to the US
US President Joe Biden speaks during the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon (Niall Carson/PA)

“My prayer today is that we continue and increase our working together.”

In his speech to the event, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also praised the return of devolved government in Northern Ireland.

“It’s hugely significant that we’re joined here today by the First Minister and deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly, two women from different political traditions who are showing what can be achieved working together, holding jointly a co-equal office as heads of government of Northern Ireland,” he said.

He added: “It’s so good that both of you are here today,” to applause.

Mr Varadkar went on: “Throughout the entirety of the peace process the Friends of Ireland Caucus have been our resolute friends and on behalf of the Irish people, thank you for your commitment to Ireland.”

Taoiseach visit to the US
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the event on Friday (Niall Carson/PA)

He also extended an invitation to Mr Johnson to visit Ireland.

Mr Johnson described the annual lunch as a “special event”, a time to “come together and look past our political differences for this moment in time and remember the importance of peacemaking”.

The guests included Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, MPs, TDs from the Irish Parliament and both Democrat and Republican members of the US Congress.

During the event, Ms O’Neill said she took the opportunity to press Mr Biden to “play a constructive role in securing an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the Israeli blockade on humanitarian aid”.

“The United States has been a critical partner for peace in Ireland,” she said.

“We deeply value this support.

“Our peace process and your role in this are a fine example of successful US diplomacy and foreign policy success.

“As the world watches on in horror at the genocide of the Palestinian people, I urge you to apply this same constructive role to securing an immediate ceasefire in Gaza; full humanitarian aid; an end to illegal settlements in the West Bank, and a sovereign Palestinian state.”