‘It sure feels like home’: First day of Joe Biden’s visit to Ireland - as it happened

US president visited Co Louth after brief stop at Dublin Airport and keynote speech in Belfast


Joe Biden’s itinerary today

  • Biden arrived in Northern Ireland last night on Air Force One. The only public engagement of his short stop in Belfast was his public address at Ulster University
  • He was joined at the campus by the North’s political leaders and representatives from youth, business and civic communities and also held an informal hotel meeting with UK prime minister Rishi Sunak
  • After a speech at Ulster University on peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland, Biden and his entourage headed to a rainy Dublin, where he was greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
  • Inclement weather means the plan to use a helicopter to travel to Co Louth had to be abandoned. Biden instead travelled via motorcade
  • In Louth, he was shown around Carlingford Castle by the Tánaiste and heard about his great-great-grandfather Owen Finnegan, who left for the US in the 1840s. He is also stopping off in Dundalk before returning to Dublin this evening


On that note, we will leave things there.

Thank you for joining myself (Colin Gleeson) this evening and my colleague Laura Slattery earlier today.

Stay tuned to irishtimes.com tomorrow and the rest of the week for up-to-the-minute coverage of the Biden visit.



Later on Thursday, Biden will attend a banquet dinner at Dublin Castle.

On Friday, he will honour the memory of his son deceased son Beau when he makes a private visit to the Mayo Roscommon hospice in Castlebar.

In 2017, Biden travelled to the Mayo capital to turn the sod on the site for the new hospice complex.

At the time he described the ceremony as “a deeply moving experience”.

He will visit the hospice either before or after visiting Knock Shrine where he will be welcomed by Fr Richard Gibbons.

On the same afternoon he will visit the North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Centre in Crossmolina prior to a public speech near St Muredach’s Cathedral.


Biden is returning to Dublin tonight ahead of another busy day tomorrow, when the trip takes on a bit more of a formal guise.

He will meet President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin in the Phoenix Park. Here, he will likely ring the Peace Bell and plant a tree, as previous visiting dignitaries have done.

Expect an appearance from the Irish President’s two Bernese Mountain Dogs, Bród and Misneach, given Biden is also a dog owner and lover.

From there, he will travel the short distance within the park to Farmleigh where he will meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for their one-to-one meeting. Biden could also swing by Deerfield, the official residence of US ambassador Claire Cronin, also located in the park.

In the afternoon, Biden will become the fourth US president to address the Oireachtas, following John F Kennedy in 1963, Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Bill Clinton in 1995.


Conor reports that it seemed like a whole town was squashed into about a square mile, but many of the onlookers caught no sight of the man they had come to see, instead left to air questions to people nearby: did you see him? Which car was he in? Is it over?

Further along, as the president rolled passed cheers of affection in his gargantuan vehicle and stepped out to head into the Windsor Bar and Restaurant, one disappointed woman was heard saying: “Was that it? I waited hours for this fella.”

You can read Conor’s full report here.


Lola Animashaun, who came out with her children for the presidential visit, said: “We’re just so excited really. We don’t mind if it’s raining, snowing – whatever. We’re just so happy. We’re proud of what Biden’s doing right now. Fingers crossed for his election.”

It’s unclear if that enthusiasm was shared by our reporters.


Conor Capplis, our man on the ground in Dundalk, says Biden was gone almost as soon as Dundalk knew he was coming.

“President Joe Biden’s fleeting visit to the Co Louth border town was historic, rainy and, most of all, brief,” he writes.

“It was one of those evenings where no item of clothing was saved from a good drenching, but the heavy rain and sharp nip in the air couldn’t stop people from taking advantage of the once-in-a-generation visit to the town.

“Crowds steadily formed across the day in Dundalk for president Biden’s walkabout in the town on Wednesday evening.

“Locals, tourists and probably half the country’s gardaí swarmed the streets of the town. Music was being played and teenagers off on their Easter break were roaming about, no doubt a bit frazzled by all the commotion in their small part of the world.”



Luisa and her daughter Siobhan Murray, from nearby Ravensdale, were delighted to catch a glimpse of Biden after he visited the castle and got a gift from the Secret Service for their hospitality.

“It’s funny, they all needed to use the bathroom,” Siobhan said, while standing in the doorway of their aunt’s house.

This is the stuff you won’t read in the newspaper tomorrow morning, but it’s electric all the same.

As the president left Carlingford and headed towards Dundalk, members of the Garda and the Secret Service availed of their restroom facilities, they said.

Luisa, wearing a green jumper with the US flag on it, welcomed them in to use the bathrooms, and as a thank you, they were given a Secret Service pin.


Amanda Stewart-McClean, a piper in the Carlingford Pipe Band who played music for Biden as he arrived at the castle, said “it was so good” to be a part of the event.

“It’s something I’m never going to be able to get to do again in my lifetime,” she said.

“It was such a privilege to be asked to do it.”


Gerry Hoey and Yvonne Keenan from the Carlingford Heritage Centre gave Biden a tour of the castle earlier.

“When he came in, I was a bit apprehensive, it’s not every day we have the president of the United States here,” said Hoey.

But he said Biden gave people his time, and signed a photo of his grandson Thomas.


Asked if Biden was how he expected, McAteer said: “He was taller, he was younger looking, and he had amazing teeth.

“He has just a really easy manner and he was absolutely brilliant with the special needs kids.”


If you remember the ice cream shop that we mentioned earlier, it was actually a more wide-ranging establishment called the Food House.

The owner, Jerome McAteer, has said he was “honoured” to host Biden, whom he has outed as having something of a sweet tooth.

McAteer said Biden bought lemon meringue, chocolate eclairs, bread and butter pudding, pear and almond cake, as well as a mug with an image of a dog on it.

McAteer said he paid with a €50 note and gave a €10 tip to some of the workers who have special needs.

“He was talking a lot about his Irish background,” said McAteer, something we are probably going to have to get used to this week.


There does not seem to have been the customary pulling of a pint of Guinness in the pub, which, to be fair, has become a little bit clichéd at this stage.

Biden is, of course, a teetotaller.

Probably the only thing he has in common with his predecessor in the White House.


Biden also reflected on his family connections to Ireland.

“Thank you all for homecoming welcome,” he said. “The bad news for all of you is we’ll be back. There’s no way to keep us out.”

“I’m so proud to be here. So proud to be in Louth,” he also told the audience.

He said that one of the great American values was the belief that anything is possible.

“We believe anything’s possible. Anything’s possible.”

Classic line.

He added: “Together we have to keep working toward a future of greater dignity and as we face darkness, and there is darkness we have to face, but we must keep marching forward because the world has possibilities.”



There was another slightly awkward moment for Biden when he appeared to confuse New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team with the Black and Tans.

Paying tribute to former Irish rugby player Rob Kearney (him again), he thanked him for the tie he was wearing and referenced the match at Soldier Field in Chicago against the New Zealand team.

“This was given to me by one of these guys, right here. He was a hell of a rugby player.

“He beat the hell out of the Black and Tans.”


Biden also paid tribute to his sister Valerie and his son Hunter, who have accompanied him on the trip.

Biden is also meeting with distant cousins John Owen Finnegan and Andrea McEvitt as well as local politicians in the establishment.


Biden also poked fun at Micheál Martin’s misfortune in testing positive for Covid during his trip to the White House on St Patrick’s Day last year.

It was the second year in a row that Covid scuppered Martin’s chance to press the flesh with Biden in his back yard.


The speeches have now concluded, but I will bring you a few more snippets of them now.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin focused on the value of peace to the border town of Dundalk.

“In the darkest days of the Troubles, it was a place of refuge for those feeling from violence, even though it itself was touched by violence,” he said.

The value of the Good Friday Agreement was “so tangible and real here in this location”.

“It is a shared space, a place that links rather than divides. Peace is not an abstraction here.”


He is rambling slightly, but the take-home message appears to be “it’s great to be Irish”.

We’re a great bunch of lads altogether.



He says Irish people are “nostalgic about the future”.

“Hope is what beats in the hearts of all people, but particularly in the Irish,” he adds.

He says we need to “continue to keep the faith”.

He recounts a story he told at his victory speech after beating Donald Trump in the 2020 election of when he was told by his grandmother to “spread the faith” rather than just keep it.


He is talking about dignity now, remarking that “everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity”.

He says these are the morals he has tried to instil in his children and grandchildren.


Biden is talking now about his Irish ancestry and looking ahead to his trip to Mayo.

He recalls some words from his mother: “Joey, remember you are defined by your courage, and you are redeemed by your loyalty.”

He says this was her motto.


He has called Micheál Martin the “prime minister” and a “proud son of Louth”.



He is talking about the close ties between our two countries, and introduces Biden to the lectern with the words: “Welcome home, Mr President”.

Biden takes to his feet and says, in typically folksy fashion: “It sure feels like home.”


They have now begun delivering remarks, and Micheál Martin is up first, moonlighting as something of a host as he prepares to introduce the US president.

He welcomes Biden to the “wee county” and says that despite its nickname, it “packs a punch”.


Biden has arrived at the Windsor Bar where he’s due to meet with residents and deliver brief remarks.

The local residents at the pub include representatives from the International Fund for Ireland, which was established as an independent international organisation by the Irish and British Governments in 1986.

It was established as the result of a bipartisan initiative by Speaker Tip O’Neill and president Ronald Reagan and is the vehicle for congressional funding for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland.

The entertainment at the pub will be provided by Patricia Treacy, an award-winning musician and violinist from Co Louth who played at Biden’s inauguration and travelled to Washington, DC to perform at the White House on St Patrick’s Day in 2022.

Also performing will be the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland, a youth orchestra based in Dundalk.


Meanwhile, in Dublin, a small group of protesters gathered outside the GPO on O’Connell Street in Dublin at around 5pm to protest Biden’s visit.

The protest, organised by People Before Profit and several other left wing groups, had a number of speakers, my colleague Ellen O’Donoghue reports.

Speaking at the protest, People Before Profit leader Richard Boyd Barrett thanked the small number of protesters for coming out on “what is an absolutely miserable day,” at such short notice.

He’s not wrong there.

Boyd Barrett criticised what he called “the very uncritical narrative” around Biden’s visit to Ireland.

“Joe Biden has been presented by our Government and by the media as a great peacemaker, but his record says something very, very different and I think we have an obligation to let people know the truth about Joe Biden’s record,” he said.


It looks like a reasonably intimate gathering in the Windsor Bar where people are sat down awaiting Biden’s arrival.

The motorcade has apparently arrived outside. He will be greeted by the owners of the bar, and former Irish rugby international Rob Kearney is there too.

Himself and Biden seem to be joined at the hip today. There was some suggestion earlier that Kearney is travelling in Biden’s motorcade.

They are distant cousins, if you can believe it.


Here is a tweet from the Washington Post’s White House reporter Matt Viser, who has obviously been basking in this glorious Irish weather.


Here’s another picture of Biden. He has apparently picked up a few souvenirs in one of the shops, which his entourage is carrying.

A giant Toblerone and some snowglobes no doubt.

He now appears to be on the move towards the pub, and who can blame him.


As you can see from my colleague Simon Carswell’s tweet below, preparations for Biden’s arrival are well underway in the Windsor Bar where a lectern has been set up, which presumably means there are hopes he might say a few words.



It’s all hands on deck behind the counter as you might imagine. He is chatting to staff, flanked still by Tánaiste Micheál Martin.

It’s unclear if he actually had any ice cream. More as we have it.


After finishing up his chats with the crowd, Biden has now made a bee-line for an ice cream shop.

The president is known to have a particular fondness for ice cream. It’s hardly the weather for it, but who are we to judge.


Good evening. Colin Gleeson here to take you through the rest of US president Joe Biden’s trip to Ireland tonight. Thanks for joining me.

As my colleague Laura has reported, Biden has concluded his whistle-stop tour of the Costa del Cooley and has now arrived in Dundalk where the weather looks slightly less grim, for now at least.

There were cheers from the crowd when he climbed out of his limousine and he is now chatting to excited members of the public who have – God love them – been waiting in the rain in the hopes of catching a glimpse of him for some hours now.


Biden is running behind schedule because the weather forced the presidential party to ditch its helicopter to Co Louth for a road trip, so there was no walkabout in Carlingford and some photo-ops have fallen by the wayside.

It is still expected that the US president will do a meet-and-greet in Dundalk, however, and he is due to drop into the Windsor Bar, a pub and restaurant on Dublin Street. As a teetotaller, he is perhaps less likely to do the traditional pulling of a pint.

Reporters based in the Dundalk press centre, meanwhile, have apparently been doing their bit all day for per capita consumption of Tayto.

And on that crisp note, that’s it from me (Laura Slattery) for tonight – Colin Gleeson will be taking over the live blog for the rest of the evening.


Back to more prosaic matters in the capital, where Dublin City Council says it would like to advise the public that following a request from An Garda Síochána, it has covered and sealed bins in the city centre and along Biden’s designated travel route.

The bins are likely to remain sealed and covered until Friday.

“Members of the public are kindly asked to dispose of their waste at the next available bin outside these designated security areas, to prevent a proliferation of litter on our city’s streets and pavements around these security locations at this important time.”

What could possibly go wrong?


Biden, who has acquired a baseball cap, is being shown around the ruin that is Carlingford Castle by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin. They’re gazing out into the slightly hazy Carlingford Lough and pointing at things.

The Tánaiste is now sporting a very similar cap. Oh, no, he’s taken it off.

More fashion updates as we get them.


The Garda outriders are now arriving in Carlingford, signifying that Biden and his entourage are not far behind.

In the meantime, the campaign for his re-election – although he has not yet confirmed he will run again in 2024, only hinted at it – appears to have begun in Dundalk, judging from this photograph by Conor Capplis.


Irish Times reporter Conor Capplis, who is in Dundalk, writes:

Crowds have steadily formed across the day in Dundalk for president Biden’s walkabout in the town this evening. Despite the poor weather, spirits are high among punters – anything to catch a glimpse of Cousin Joe.

Locals, tourists and gardai have swarmed the streets of the town. Music is being played, kids off on their Easter break are roaming about, no doubt a bit frazzled by all the commotion in their small part of the world.

The word on everybody’s lips is “Joe” – specifically when he’ll show up and where he’ll go. Whatever the eventuality, the Irish-American president will have a warm welcome awaiting him.


A traffic update, courtesy of Dublin Airport, on something of a soft evening both in the capital and in Co Louth.


The White House has issued a series of handout photographs of Biden meeting the North’s political leaders: as well as with Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill (pictured), the US president posed with DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, SLDP leader Colum Eastwood, UUP leader Doug Beattie and Alliance Party leader Naomi Long.

Northern Correspondent Seanín Graham writes:

Sinn Féin deputy leader and First Minister designate Michelle O’Neill said she felt Biden’s message was “on the right note” and had sent a “clear message to the DUP” the peace of the past 25 years is “something to be celebrated”.

“But he is very much was future focused, he was looking forward to the next 25 years, it was about the hope and the opportunity, but I think his message was clear, we need peace, we need stability and we need prosperity, those things all go hand in hand.”


While people in Co Louth wait for Biden’s (late) cavalcade to arrive, Irish Times journalists have been busy reporting and analysing the US president’s visit so far.


Ronan McGreevy writes: Much has been made, not least by Biden himself, about his Irish ancestry.

According to the genealogist Megan Smolenyak, Biden is 10/16th Irish based on the ethnicity of his great-grandparents. Over the coming days he will visit his Finegan and Kearney relatives in Co Louth and the Blewitts in Co Mayo.

What about the other 6/16th? The US president made reference to his English ancestors the Bidens. In his speech to the Ulster University, he joked that he was once told, “You are English, just remember it”.

The Bidens came from Westbourne in West Sussex. The first reference to him in the New World was to a William Biden who was based in Maryland in 1822. He died in Baltimore in 1849 at the age of 61.

Biden joked in his speech that another William Biden, who was a relative of his, wrote the rules for dealing with mutiny in the Royal Navy.

Biden assumed his middle name, Robinette, was French in origin, but now believes that they were French Huguenot Protestants who settled in Nottingham.

Ronan McGreevy has written more about the US president’s Irish ancestry here.

After this visit, don’t even think about showing up a table quiz without knowing that Joe Biden’s middle name is Robinette.


For those of you on poetry-watch, the first literary quote of the visit was a reference to the work of Sinéad Morrissey, the Portadown-born poet who was Belfast’s first poet laureate.

It came after the US president said in his speech that “compassion, compassion” was the “real power” of the Good Friday Agreement.

“It changed how this entire region sees itself. In the words of (Sinéad) Morrissey, Belfast’s first poet laureate, ‘What’s left is dark and quiet, but bookended by light as when Dorothy opens the dull cabin door, what happens outside is technicolour.’”

Biden repeated the last line for effect: “What happens outside is technicolour. This place is transformed by peace. Made technicolour by peace. Made whole by peace.”

This is from Morrissey’s poem The Coal Jetty, from her award-winning 2013 collection Parallax.


After meeting dignitaries, Biden had some nice – if characteristically rambling – interactions with the children of US embassy staff at Dublin Airport fire station, taking a few questions from them and admiring one child’s model of Air Force One.

Shauna Bowers, our reporter at an officially “Baltic” Dublin Airport, writes of the gathering: “Welcome to Ireland, Mr President,” a member of the crowd called out to him.

“It’s great to see you all,” said Biden. “God bless you. God bless Ireland.”

Referring to the Taoiseach, he said, “This is a guy who has become, I don’t want to hurt his reputation politically, but in addition to us being allies, we’re also friends.”

Varadkar’s friend will next make his way to Co Louth. The intention had been to go via Marine One, aka the presidential helicopter, but the unsettled weather – it’s windy, as well as wet – means there has been a change in plan. Keep your eye out for the motorcade, as the Beast is now his transport of choice.


A key skill for anyone visiting Ireland is how to wrestle an umbrella.


The black golf umbrellas are up en masse on the runway as Biden – with no need for the sunglasses he wore on his departure from Washington – makes his way down the stairs to be greeted by the Taoiseach, with whom he has a quick chat. Claire Cronin, the US ambassador to Ireland, and Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ireland’s ambassador to the US, are also among those present.

There are more handshakes as people outside the protection of the black umbrellas get a little damp.

Then Biden, his sister Valerie and his son Hunter wisely make a break for “the Beast”, aka the presidential car.


Joe Biden has now arrived in Dublin, with Air Force One touching down at Dublin Airport at around 3.15pm. The aircraft is taxiing along the wet runway towards its stand, as dignitaries including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar wait to greet him.


“Don’t jump, okay.”

One of Biden’s ad-libs during his lunchtime address. It generated some slightly nervous laughter.


Here’s a picture of Biden meeting An Irish Goodbye actor James Martin – who you may remember from the Academy Awards – at the Ulster University event.


The US press pool reported earlier that as Biden’s motorcade passed crowds lining the street en route to Ulster University, one man could be spotted with a large Donald Trump flag.

Before Biden, of course, Trump was the most recent sitting US president to come to Ireland, dropping in to his Co Clare resort Doonbeg for two days in June 2019.

So whatever happened to the 45th president of the United States? Well, he was last seen being charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Also, he surfaced on Fox News last night to give an interview to Tucker Carlson in which he referenced Biden’s Irish trip.

“He’s now in Ireland, he’s not going to have a news conference, when the world is exploding. I own property in Ireland. I’m not going to Ireland, the world is exploding around us.”

The key takeaway here is he’s not coming to Ireland.


Gabrielle Feenan, who introduced the president at Ulster University, described it as an “incredible honour”.

A 23-year-old recent graduate and entrepreneur, she said she was asked to do the honours on Saturday, describing it as a “big secret I had to keep from literally everybody”.

Feenan said that the president’s speech was “really inspiring and really positive to see all these things, of hope and prosperity for the future”.

“Whilst it has been great to see the successes of the last 25 years, I think that really strong message about looking forward to the next 25 years is crucial and important for our generation coming through.”

She met the president and said he was “incredibly friendly” and “very genuine”.

“He was very good at putting me at ease before the speech. I don’t know how to follow this one, but I am looking forward to seeing what opportunities come my way over the next 25 years I suppose and see where it takes me.” – PA


And here’s a nicely arty photograph from inside the Ulster University event, with Biden visible through a television camera’s viewfinder.


As the US president moves on from Belfast, here’s another photograph from the “not everyone is a fan” genre.


Freya McClements, our Northern Editor, writes:

Speaking to the media immediately after the US president’s speech the DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said he had a “brief conversation” with Biden earlier and he “made clear it’s not his job, as we heard in his speech, to take decisions for political leaders in Northern Ireland, but the USA really stands ready to support Northern Ireland in whatever way it can.

“So we welcome his visit here today, it’s good to see the president coming and we hope to see investment into Northern Ireland flowing from his efforts and those of the special envoy.”

Asked if the visit would make any difference to the DUP’s stance regarding the Stormont institutions, Donaldson said “it doesn’t change the political dynamic in Northern Ireland.

“We know what needs to happen, and I’ll be meeting my team over the next few days and we’ll be going back to the [UK] government [over the Windsor framework].

“We believe the government needs to go further in terms of protecting Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom and our ability to trade within the UK internal market and that’s what needs to happen now to enable us to move towards the restoration of the political institutions.”


The @POTUS account has been tweeting the essence of his speech at Ulster University, minus the off-script detours, concentrating instead on the remarks that related to the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement.

Biden – or rather the person in charge of the @POTUS account – hasn’t forgotten about British prime minister Rishi Sunak, however, tweeting a photograph of their hotel encounter and assuring him via Twitter that it was “great to see you again”.

Meanwhile, Sunak is asked by a British reporter if the trip to Belfast has really been worth it for him.

“I think our relationship is in great shape,” says Sunak, listing all the times he’s seen Biden recently and will see him again in the next couple of months.


Biden has now finished speaking and is working the room in true presidential style, shaking hands and taking selfies with attendees. Those who don’t get close enough to request a selfie are thrusting their phones in the air to grab a sneaky pic over the shoulders of the crowd.

“Your history is our history, but even more important your future is America’s future,” is probably the key soundbite from his address.

“Today’s Belfast is the beating heart of Northern Ireland and is poised to drive unprecedented economic opportunity and investment, from communities across the UK, across Ireland, across the United States. The simple truth is that peace and economic opportunity go together.”

In good news for both jobhunters and commercial property owners, his speech also stressed the readiness of “scores” of major US corporations to invest in Northern Ireland.


On a lighter note, Biden namechecks James Martin, star of the Oscar-winning short film An Irish Goodbye, who receives a round of applause.

“James, where are you?” Biden calls out to the audience.

James Martin stands up and takes a bow.


“Every person killed in the Troubles left an empty chair at the dining room table,” Biden tells the audience.

“Peace was not inevitable. We can’t ever forget that. There was nothing inevitable about it.”

He speaks about how important the future of Northern Ireland is to the US.

“There is a large population that is invested in what happens here, that cares a great deal about what happens here,” he says. “Those of you who have been there [to the US] know it. I’m not making this up.”

He says he hopes the Stormont Assembly will be restored: “That’s a judgment for you to make, but I hope it happens.”


You can watch the livestream of the speech here.


There is lengthy applause for Joe Biden as he takes to the stage.

He says that when he was in Belfast in 1991, “this neighbourhood” would not have been able to have a glass building like that of the Ulster University.


Joe Kennedy III, the US economic envoy to Northern Ireland, is next up.

“People ask me all the time, ‘why Northern Ireland, why invest here, why come?’ The proximity, the market access, the extraordinary good weather,” he says, to gales of laughter. “Folks, it’s you.”

He then tells an anecdote about a US businessman he knows who mislaid his pants, which is American for trousers. The airline lost his baggage, so he bought a new suit in Belfast, but the trousers didn’t fit. So the store’s owner drove at night to his mother’s house to make the necessary alterations, then hand-delivered the perfect pair of trousers to the CEO in his hotel lobby by 7am.

“That guy sold me on Northern Ireland better than any government official ever could,” he says the businessman told him. The store owner’s mother was unavailable for comment.


Jane Hartley, the US ambassador to the UK, is now speaking at the Ulster University event ahead of her boss’s keynote. She says that while the last 25 years in Northern Ireland were about peace, the next 25 years should be about prosperity.

“I personally believe they will be,” she says.

“I have no doubt that Northern Ireland’s best days lie ahead,” is how she concludes her brief remarks.


Northern Correspondent Seanín Graham writes: Ulster University’s balconies overlooking the hall where US president Joe Biden is due to give his lunchtime speech are thronged with students and staff awaiting his arrival.

Also present are political leaders including the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson, Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill, Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, Alliance leader Naomi Long and Women’s Coalition co-founder Monica McWilliams.

US economic envoy to Northern Ireland Joe Kennedy III and the UK’s secretary of state for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris are in attendance, too.


Washington Correspondent Martin Wall writes: Even before Biden had had his first public engagement, there were questions raised by US media about the substance of the visit to Ireland.

At a briefing with the White House National Security Council senior director for Europe Amanda Sloat on Monday morning, one reporter maintained there was a perception that after the events in Belfast “the rest of this week is essentially, tree planting, bell ringing and a taxpayer-funded family reunion”.

Needless to say the White House pushed back against this charge.

Sloat said, not surprisingly, she would dispute that characterisation of the visit.

“The president today is going to have the opportunity to meet with the prime minister of the UK. I think the president feels very strongly that there is benefit, both here as well as in the United States to mark the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. He is here two days after the 25th anniversary of that. And I think (he) feels it’s important to send a powerful signal of support by the United States for the progress that’s been made, to sustain support, going ahead.”

“And then on Thursday, the president will spend the day doing very active diplomacy with the leaders of Ireland to the meeting the President (and) the Taoiseach.”

“I think there’s going to be a lot of conversations in in both of those (meetings) about Ukraine in particular.”

Sloat said the US and Ireland were working together around the world. She said USAID and Irish Aid were working very closely together on food security, which is particularly relevant in the context of Ukraine.


Hello Belfast: Northern Editor Freya McClements is inside Ulster University and waiting for Biden’s arrival.

A little more about Ulster University’s new campus, which was designed by Dublin-headquartered architecture firm Scott Tallon Walker.

The new redeveloped campus features 75,000 sq m of additional campus space to accommodate more than 15,000 students and staff. It boasts more than 300 “learning spaces”, a two-storey library and nine catering outlets arranged around five atriums.

An internal campus of pedestrian routes and publicly accessible spaces allows the building to be integrated with the surrounding streets. That’s public relations speak for the university has walkways visible from the road.


Here’s another picture from Biden’s tea – not, repeat not, a latte, nor a “bi-latte” – with Sunak at the Grand Central Hotel. The two leaders, who shook hands on the runway last night, both do a decent job of looking thoroughly happy to be in each other’s company for the second time in two days. Tensions, what tensions?


The US president told reporters he is “here to listen” as he met Rishi Sunak.

Joe Biden faced a volley of questions from reporters, including whether he had a message for Northern Irish parties and why he was not discussing a trade deal while on his visit to the UK.

Biden, meeting the prime minister on the upper floors of the Grand Central Hotel, said: “Heck of a view out there.”

Sunak, smiling, sat at a table with the US president as the pair met over cups of tea. – PA


Sunak had some non-Biden related engagements in Belfast this morning, meeting Dáithí Mac Gabhann (6), who is awaiting a heart transplant. A new organ donation law for Northern Ireland is named in honour of the Belfast boy in recognition of his and his family’s campaign for law changes.

Before his “bi-latte” with Biden, the prime minister presented Dáithí with a Points of Light awards to acknowledge the family’s campaigning efforts.

Downing Street said the prime minister wanted to thank the Mac Gabhanns for their “tireless campaigning” for Dáithí's Law, which implemented an opt-out organ donation system, bringing Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK.


Not everyone in Belfast is a fan of US foreign policy, as this customisation of the Stars and Stripes suggests.


The Police Service of Northern Ireland has confirmed it is investigating a “security breach” around the operation for Biden’s visit to Belfast, Northern Correspondent Seanín Graham writes.

The development comes after this morning’s BBC’s Radio Ulster Nolan Show revealed a police document containing details of officers deployed in the city during the visit was found in the street by a member of the public.

It is understood copies of the order were issued to all officers on duty.

A PSNI spokesman said: “We are aware of a security breach. An investigation has commenced and we have notified the Senior Information Risk Officer. We take the safety of visiting dignitaries, members of the public and our officers and staff extremely seriously and will put the appropriate actions in place.”

Many streets in the city around Ulster University are closed until this evening amid a massive security operation.


Our Northern Editor Freya McClements tweeted this picture earlier this morning. It suggests that – contrary to expectation – Biden appears to have brought Washington’s clear skies with him.

He might not be so lucky by the time he reaches Carlingford, according to this weather update.


As crowds gather at Ulster University ahead of his keynote speech, Biden’s official @POTUS account on Twitter has just tweeted greetings to mark his arrival in the North.


In a briefing to journalists, Amanda Sloat, senior director for Europe at the US National Security Council, was asked what the president’s strategy will be to encourage the DUP to end its boycott of the Stormont Assembly.

She said the president would like to see the devolved institutions back up and running, but really the main focus of his visit is to mark the anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

“I think the president’s message – as he said on St Patrick’s Day and I expect he will reaffirm today – is the United States’ strong support for that, the belief that the people of Northern Ireland deserve to have a democratically elected power sharing representative governance.” – PA.


US secretary of state Antony Blinken is also in Belfast, and will accompany Biden to Dublin. The frequent flyer’s next stop is Hanoi in Vietnam, with which Washington is hoping to move its diplomatic relations to a higher level, then it is off to Japan for a meeting of G7 foreign ministers from Sunday.


Security is tight in Belfast this morning, with a heavy police presence and some city centre roads closed as Biden’s itinerary for the day is about to get underway. But will the US president’s visit help clear the political roadblocks?

Read Ronan McGreevy’s report on the planned traffic restrictions in Dublin here.


Also at the briefing, Martin Wall reports that the White House denied that Biden is “anti-British” and stressed that the UK is one of the closest allies of the US in the world.

The backdrop to this denial is extensive, but includes a lingering sense in certain diplomatic circles that because Biden’s visit does not include a meeting with King Charles III – whose coronation he is also skipping – this could be interpreted as a snub.

Read more on these alleged tensions in this scene-setting piece here, including the amusing detail that when the New York Times reported that the White House wanted to scale back Biden’s meeting with Sunak from a bilateral to a coffee, it quoted an official who referred to it as a “bi-latte”.

Former DUP leader Arlene Foster’s comment this morning that Biden “hates the UK” won’t have helped dispel the impression of a Washington-London divide.

Although Biden has some English ancestry, too, he has often defined his Irishness in opposition to Britishness, as evidenced by this good-humoured off-the-cuff remark to former BBC correspondent Nick Bryant during the 2020 presidential campaign: “The BBC? I’m Irish.”


The White House has been holding a press briefing in Belfast and Washington Correspondent Martin Wall was there:

Biden “may encounter some distant cousins” in his planned walking tour of Dundalk this afternoon, the White House told journalists.

On the subject of Biden’s meeting with Sunak today, it does not anticipate that the president will discuss a free trade deal with the UK – the issue may arise when Sunak visits Washington in June.

Securing a free trade deal with the UK was a major ambition of Brexiters but leading US politicians ruled out any such agreement if there was any threat to the Good Friday Agreement.

The White House also says it expects the president will have conversations with Northern Ireland political leaders this morning rather than just having an opportunity to greet them.


Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald tells Sky News there is a need to “stop this sense of limbo” in relation to powersharing.

“I think undoubtedly President Biden will reflect on the great success of the last 25 years building peace. I think he will obviously reflect also on the huge role of the United States of America in that.

“I have no doubt that he perhaps shares certainly my disappointment, Sinn Féin’s disappointment that on this occasion marking 25 years of the peace accord, that the institutions aren’t up and running, that we still don’t have government in Belfast and that the DUP continues its boycott.

“So I hope there will be a very positive forward-looking message, I have no doubt there will be, but also a very clear message that now is the time to end the boycott, to stop this sense of limbo and to deliver for people in the north of Ireland of all political persuasions the government that they deserve. We’re nearly a year on now from the election last May.” – PA


Biden has said that during his visit he would seek to make sure the recent Windsor Framework deal between the European Union and Britain to ease post-Brexit trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK remains in place.

That deal has so far failed to convince the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to end a boycott of the devolved powersharing government, a key part of the 1998 peace deal.

The DUP says Biden’s visit – the first to the region by a US president in 10 years – will not pressure it to end its more than year-long protest at the trade rules that treat the North differently to the rest of the UK.

While Biden is expected to greet representatives of the DUP and the other four main Northern Ireland political parties, it is unclear if they will hold separate meetings. – Reuters


In advance of his arrival, columnist Fintan O’Toole muses on what kind of American president is coming to visit.

“Biden’s sense of Irishness is very real and profoundly felt. But it is rooted in soil that is now increasingly thin on the ground in Ireland itself: a complete fusion of Irish and Catholic identities,” he writes.

“It makes a slightly uncomfortable kind of sense that Biden will preach on Friday from the altar of St Muredach’s Cathedral in Ballina, Co Mayo. He chose to be Irish because he identifies so profoundly with Catholicism.”

Hugh Linehan writes on a similar theme.

“Spare a thought for the White House speechwriters currently thumbing glumly through the collected works of Heaney and Yeats in search of fresh meat for their boss’s address to the Oireachtas and his speech in Mayo, where, according to a spokesperson, he will ‘deliver an address to celebrate the deep, historic ties that link our countries and people’,” writes Linehan.


Biden is scheduled to greet the leaders of the North’s main political parties today, but there will not be a formal group meeting. He also won’t be visiting the Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont which is currently not sitting due to the Democratic Unionist Party’s boycott over the Northern Ireland protocol. Our Northern Editor Freya McClements and Washington Correspondent Martin Wall report on that decision here:


A huge security operation is in place around the visit, with road closures in Belfast city centre and around its international airport this morning. Conor Lally has details about the security operation here.


Biden descended the steps of Air Force One in Belfast shortly after it landed at 9.20pm on Tuesday. He was followed by the US special economic envoy to Northern Ireland, Joe Kennedy III, and was greeted on the tarmac by British prime minister Rishi Sunak, who he will meet again this morning.

Biden is also accompanied on this trip by his sister, Valerie Biden Owens, who is a close political confidante of the president, and by son Hunter Biden, who has been perhaps less of a political asset in the past. Their presence underlies the extent to which exploring his Irish ancestral roots has guided a great deal of the itinerary in the Republic.


Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the four-day official visit to Ireland by US president Joe Biden.

Biden will deliver a keynote speech at Ulster University’s new Belfast campus today in what is his only official engagement in the North before departing for Dublin, popping up to Carlingford and Dundalk, then returning to Dublin.

Speaking before his departure from blue-skied Washington to slightly less blue-skied Belfast yesterday, Biden said the priorities for the visit were to “make sure the Irish accords and the Windsor agreement stay in place, to keep the peace.”

I’ll have the latest developments on the first full day of the trip, which marks the 11th time a US president has visited Ireland. Three of those visits were by Bill Clinton between 1995 and 2000, making Biden the eighth sitting US president to come to our shores. He is also the most Irish of the lot.