US President Joe Biden addressed the Irish parliament during his visit to Dublin as part of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. He paid tribute to the role of Ireland and Irish immigrants in American history, saying the two countries had “a partnership for the ages beginning in our shared history, dating back to the very founding of the United States”. He also spoke of the peace process in Northern Ireland, saying “peace is precious” and that Britain should be working closer with Ireland to prevent violence in the region. The president was the fourth US leader to address the joint sitting of the Dail and Seanad.
Biden also toasted Irish blood spilled in the American War of Independence, saying the “Irish hearts that helped kindle the torch of liberty and my country and fire its revolutionary spirit, the Irish blood from across this island that was willingly given for my country’s independence”. On the previous day, he had met with Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar, and pledged US support for Ireland against any disruption resulting from Brexit.
The president made a minor gaffe during his speech, mistakenly calling the New Zealand national rugby team, the All Blacks, the Black and Tans. The latter were British reserve troops who fought in the Irish War of Independence, and whose activities in Ireland were characterised by violence and brutality. Biden also joked about his love of American football, calling rugby players “nuts” while discussing a rugby ball given to him by an Irish cousin.
The Good Friday Agreement was a major achievement of Bill Clinton’s presidency, which saw him engaged in intensive negotiations to resolve the conflict in Northern Ireland. The president’s visit to Ireland signifies the enduring strength of the relationship between the two countries, and their shared commitment to peace and democratic values.