Kamala Harris expected to meet Northern Ireland leaders on St Patrick’s Day

US Senate introduces resolution to support Belfast Agreement calling for ‘full implementation’

US vice-president Kamala Harris will meet virtually tomorrow with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill The Irish Times understands, as Northern Ireland is set to top the agenda for the annual St Patrick's Day celebrations in Washington.

It is understood that a meeting between the three female leaders is being finalised on the eve of the St Patrick’s Day meetings.

US president Joe Biden may also attend some of the discussion, which will take place on Wednesday afternoon following Taoiseach Michael Martin’s meeting with the president.

As usual, the highpoint of the traditional St Patrick’s Day celebrations at the White House will be the bilateral meeting between the Taoiseach and the US president, which will take place remotely for the first time due to the covid pandemic.


Mr Martin will also hold one-to-one meetings with Ms Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the bipartisan Friends of Ireland group on Capitol Hill, which will mark its 40th anniversary and host a celebration of the life and legacy of the late John Hume.

In a measure of the interest in current happenings in Northern Ireland, the US Senate unveiled a resolution on Tuesday underlining its support for the Belfast Agreement and calling for its "full implementation".

The resolution – which was sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Susan Collins – was brought to the floor ahead of Wednesday’s engagements between Taoiseach Michael Martin and senior US figures for St Patrick’s Day. It is expected that a vote on the resolution will take place next month, possibly to coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the 1998 peace agreement.

As reported last week by The Irish Times, the resolution expresses support “for the full implementation” of the agreement and subsequent efforts “to support peace on the island of Ireland”.

It also states that any new or amended trade agreements between the US and UK should take into account that the conditions of the Belfast Agreement are met.

There is also mention of the Northern Ireland protocol – currently the subject of fierce contention between London and Brussels, following Britain's move to unilaterally delay the introduction of certain customs checks between the North and Britain. It also calls for "continuing attention and action to resolve the injustices of past violence, including state-sponsored violence."

"The Good Friday Agreement was a historic accomplishment that established a framework for a sustainable peace," said Mr Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "However, the work of the agreement remains unfinished. Ahead of St Patrick's Day, we are calling for renewed attention and action to implement the agreement's provisions, including the passage of a bill of rights and accountability for past injustices."

Republican Susan Collins, who represents the state of Maine in the US Senate, recalled the work of former Maine senator George Mitchell in the negotiation of the Belfast agreement.

“Over the past two decades, political leaders in Northern Ireland, along with the Irish and British governments, have made enormous progress, though important issues remain unresolved,” she said. “Our resolution encourages all parties to continue to work toward the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, as well as subsequent agreements that promote peace and stability on the island of Ireland.”

The resolution was co-signed by 13 senators, including Senators Cory Booker, Chris Murphy and senate majority leader Chuck Schumer.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent