President Biden in Belfast: Marking the 25th Anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement

During President Biden’s visit to Belfast in April, Washington Ireland Program board members, staff and alumni were fortunate to have a front row seat at his address.

On Wednesday, April 12, 2023, the city of Belfast was honoured to host President Joe Biden as the first leg of his visit to the island of Ireland. The occasion was marked by the President’s only major event in Northern Ireland at Ulster University where President Biden inaugurated their new Belfast campus building. The event was attended by the Washington Ireland Program (WIP) bBoard members, staff, alumni and other distinguished guests.

In the run-up to the event, WIP staff played a key role, assisting the White House team in accommodating the international press who were present to cover the President’s visit.

Grace Boyle, the current President of Ulster University Students’ Union and a member of the WIP Class of 2023 had an opportunity to meet the President. Boyle described Biden’s visit as ‘hugely symbolic’, reflecting on the importance of peace for her generation and urging that it should never be taken for granted.

During his address, President Biden acknowledged the “tremendous progress” that Northern Ireland had made since the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. He emphasised the shared history between the U.S. and Ireland, and more importantly, their shared future. “Today’s Belfast is the beating heart of Northern Ireland, and it’s poised to drive unprecedented economic opportunity and investment from communities across the UK, across Ireland, and across the United States. Peace and economic opportunity go together,” he declared.

“In the 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland’s gross domestic product has literally doubled. Doubled. And I predict to you, if things continue to move in the right direction, it will more than triple.”

During his address, President Biden spotlighted the achievements of Jordan Graham, a young entrepreneur born three weeks after the agreement was signed. The President praised Graham’s accomplishments, which he attributed to the peace that has prevailed in Northern Ireland since the agreement. Jordan, a Queen’s University Belfast alumnus and co-founder of companies Giant Kelp and Sugar Snap, recently completed the International Fund for Ireland’s AMBIT program, which is organised and facilitated by WIP.

Concluding his speech, Biden reaffirmed his commitment to the people of Northern Ireland, pledging continued support from the United States in building a future that the young people deserve.

In addition to President Biden, other speakers at the event included U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Jane Hartley, U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, Joe Kennedy III, and Ulster University Vice-Chancellor Paul Bartholomew.

Following the President’s address, a small number of WIP board members, staff, alumni had the opportunity to interact briefly with President Biden, resulting in memorable photos, many of which were featured in newspapers around the world and in tweets from the White House.

After the event, Ulster University hosted a reception where the conversation about commemorating the twenty-five years of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement continued. It was an event that highlighted the journey of progress, peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, reinforcing the importance of continued dialogue and engagement for the future of all who live here.

The Washington Ireland Program supports, inspires, and develops leaders from a wide range of communities and backgrounds who are committed to building a future of peace and prosperity for Northern Ireland and Ireland.

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