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Joe Biden aims to 'keep the peace' as he arrives in Belfast to celebrate Good Friday Agreement anniversary
11 April 2023, 21:22 | Updated: 11 April 2023, 23:38
President Biden pledged to help "keep the peace" as he arrived in Belfast as part of Good Friday Agreement anniversary celebrations - following heightened tensions after pipe-bombs being found in Londonderry.
Mr Biden, 80, arrived at 9.20pm local time on Air Force One as part of a trip in which he will visit both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
He will pay tribute to the Good Friday Agreement on the 25th anniversary of the Belfast peace accords - and shook hands with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and NI secretary Chris Heaton-Harris upon his arrival at Belfast International Airport.
Mr Sunak and the US leader smiled and shook hands and could be seen exchanging remarks on the tarmac after the president descended the stairs from Air Force One.
Mr Biden and his wife Dr Jill Biden were joined by his son Hunter and Biden's Northern Ireland envoy Joe Kennedy III - grandson of Irish-American politician Robert F Kennedy.
They were later taken away to a city centre hotel in the presidential limo nicknamed The Beast.
Mr Biden will deliver a speech commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement at Ulster University tomorrow following a bilateral meeting between him and Mr Sunak.
He departed from Maryland around 3.25pm UK time and when asked about what he hoped to achieve on the visit, he replied: “Make sure the Irish accords and the Windsor agreement stay in place, keep the peace. That's the main thing."
BREAKING: US President @JoeBiden has departed Maryland on Air Force One, heading to Northern Ireland.— Kieran Bradley (@MrKieranBradley) April 11, 2023
Asked on the runway what his top priority was for the trip, the president said: “Make sure the Irish accords and the Windsor agreement stay in place, keep the peace. That's the… pic.twitter.com/MJ3OU0DYR7
Before his arrival, Mr Biden tweeted: "25 years ago, Northern Ireland's leaders chose peace.
"The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement ended decades of violence and brought stability."I look forward to marking the anniversary in Belfast, underscoring the US commitment to preserving peace and encouraging prosperity."
Biden's arrival in the province comes amid flared tensions between the Protestant and Catholic communities which has been crystallised by violence in Londonderry in recent days.
Despite this, a White House spokesperson said that the President is "more than comfortable" travelling to Northern Ireland despite the growing unrest in the country.
A PSNI police vehicle was set ablaze by masked thugs in the Creggan area of the city while it was observing parades to mark the Easter Rising.
Joe Biden ‘very excited’ about Ireland trip, White House says
Four pipe-bombs were found by the police today in the same region of the city at Londonderry City Cemetery.
The mourning place was closed to visitors on Tuesday morning as officers examined the scene.
Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton called the find a "sinister and worrying" development.
"The actions of those responsible are reprehensible and show a complete disregard and utter contempt for the community," he said.
"These suspected pipe bombs were left in a cemetery a place where people lay loved ones to rest and visit to pay their respects. That is absolutely shameful."
ACC Singleton said the devices were made safe and have been removed for further forensic examination.
25 years ago, Northern Ireland’s leaders chose peace.— President Biden (@POTUS) April 10, 2023
The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement ended decades of violence and brought stability.
I look forward to marking the anniversary in Belfast, underscoring the U.S. commitment to preserving peace and encouraging prosperity.
Footage filmed yesterday showed several masked protestors hurl petrol bombs and other missiles at an armoured police Land Rover in Creggan, Londonderry.
Around a dozen people attended the illegal parade dressed in paramilitary clothing, which started at 2pm, to commemorate the anniversary of the 1916 Easter rising.
Police have appealed for calm amid the protests, confirming that no one had been injured in the attacks.
DUP MLA Gary Middleton tweeted: "This reckless behaviour is an attempt to cause harm not only to PSNI officers but to our communities as well.
"There must be swift action to bring those responsible to justice."
It comes after police said they have "strong intelligence" that terror attacks had been planned against Northern Ireland police officers today.
Officers have been moved to frontline duties to counter any terror threats, a move which has not been used for years, Simon Byrne, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable, said.
Speaking in Belfast, Ireland's deputy premier Micheal Martin described the threat of attacks as "criminality in its worst form" and said "very evil people are contemplating this".
The tensions come after the unionist DUP announced that it would not support Rishi Sunak's revised Brexit deal with the EU - intended to smooth over issues that the UK leaving the bloc has caused in regards to Northern Ireland.
Biden's visit also comes days after confirming that he plans to run for re-election in 2024.
After a speech at Ulster University on Wednesday, he will then go to the Republic of Ireland where he will address a joint session of the Irish parliament, meet the Irish President Micheal D Higgins and reconnect with his Irish relatives in County Mayo.