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In Belfast, Biden marks 25th anniversary of Good Friday Agreement

The U.S. president is visiting Northern Ireland and Ireland to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and pay homage to his Irish roots. He also tried to stay clear of getting entangled in Ireland's present-day political troubles.

(CN) — During a visit to Belfast, U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday commemorated the 25th anniversary of the U.S.-brokered Good Friday Agreement that largely ended the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland.

Biden hailed the historic deal for bringing peace and prosperity to Northern Ireland, but he was careful to avoid commenting on the region's simmering conflicts over Brexit, the deep divisions that continue to exist between Catholic and Protestant political parties and threats posed by a new wave of violence.

A massive police presence in Belfast underscored the fragile backdrop to his visit. In recent years, Northern Ireland has seen an uptick in violence, most recently on Monday when masked people threw gasoline bombs at a police vehicle during Easter Monday parades in Derry. In February, a top police official was shot and wounded, an attack that authorities have blamed on Irish Republican Army dissidents opposed to the peace process.

Meanwhile, political disagreements, chief among them unresolved issues caused by Brexit, have stopped the functioning of Northern Ireland's parliament, a body known as the Stormont. It has not sat for about a year after the Democratic Unionist Party walked out in anger over a post-Brexit trade deal that they said would leave Northern Ireland too enmeshed with the European Union and separated from the rest of the United Kingdom.

The U.S. president spent Wednesday in Belfast where he met British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and spoke at the Ulster University about the importance of the Good Friday Agreement and the deep historical ties between the United States and Ireland.

“Your history is our history,” Biden said in his speech. “But, even more important, your future is America’s future.”

He said that even though the U.S. is deeply divided, support for Northern Ireland “is something that brings Washington together and brings America together.”

In America “there is a large population that is invested in what happens here, cares a great deal about what happens here,” he said.

He pledged to help bring more U.S. investment to Northern Ireland and said scores of American businesses are interested in the region.

“The simple truth is that peace and economic opportunity go together,” he said, citing Northern Ireland's doubling of economic output in the past 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

Biden spent less than 24 hours in Northern Ireland before moving on to the Republic of Ireland for a three-day visit, including an address to the Dublin parliament, attendance at a gala dinner and trips to two ancestral hometowns.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

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