Taoiseach says suggestion Biden does not understand Northern Ireland is ‘wrong’

UK minister claimed US president does not ‘fully appreciate’ complexity of protocol

US president Joe Biden has warned UK prime minister Boris Johnson that he "feels very strongly" about the issues surrounding the Northern Ireland peace process, adding that he does not want to see a closed border in Ireland. Video: C-Span

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said anyone who suggests that US president Joe Biden does not understand Northern Ireland is “wrong”.

Mr Biden has warned British prime minister Boris Johnson that that the Belfast Agreement must not be put at risk by the difficulties in reaching agreement on post-Brexit trade rules between the UK and EU.

He said he feels “very strongly” about the issue and added: “We spent an enormous amount of time and effort in the United States.... and I would not like to see - nor would many of my Republican colleagues - a change in the Irish accord.”

British environment secretary George Eustice later claimed that Mr Biden does not “fully appreciate” the details of the dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol.

He told Sky News it is “very complicated” and “I’m not sure he does fully appreciate all of that”.

Mr Eustice also suggested that Mr Biden is “just reading the headlines, reading what the EU is saying, reading what Ireland might be saying, which is that they would like the Northern Ireland Protocol to work in the way the EU envisage.”

Mr Martin, who is in New York for United Nations meetings, was asked about Mr Biden’s meeting with Mr Johnson and the claim that the US president does not understand the Northern Ireland protocol.

The Taoiseach said: “anybody who suggests that President Biden doesn’t get Northern Ireland or understand it is wrong.

“He understands it very well”.

Mr Martin said Ireland’s diplomats in Washington have used “every opportunity to appraise the American administration of the importance of the UK-EU trade agreement, the role the protocol has within that agreement”.

He also said the Biden administration is told that the EU is “in solution mode” and wants to resolve the issue.

Mr Martin said: “We appreciate the fact that President Biden and his administration have been very consistent in their messaging to the UK government in terms of all working together to make sure we do not undermine the Good Friday Agreement.”

He said the focus of the UK and Irish governments and the EU has to switch to “working in partnership to resolve these issues.

“I believe it can be done. And I believe the European Union is up for a solution... where there’s a will there’s a way and these issues can be resolved.”

Elsewhere Mr Johnson was asked if he agrees with Mr Eustice but said: “No. The president actually in our meeting yesterday, I don’t think it came up at all.”