WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is marking St. Patrick’s Day as he recommits the U.S. to the Good Friday Agreement, which has come under increasing stress following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.
Biden, the latest president of Irish decent, is set for a virtual meeting Wednesday with Ireland’s prime minister, Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
The president is expected to attend Mass near his family home in Wilmington, Delaware, before returning to the White House to partake in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations toned down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden and Martin’s virtual bilateral meeting — Biden’s third with a foreign leader since he took office eight weeks ago — will be followed by the presentation of an engraved bowl of shamrock, which has been sent ahead to Washington. It ensures that a tradition that began in 1952 will continue uninterrupted, if modified by COVID-19 concerns.
The White House says Biden will also drop in on Vice President Kamala Harris’ meeting with Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill in a show of support for the Good Friday Agreement.
Signed in 1998, the Good Friday Agreement helped end sectarian violence that had raged for three decades over the issue of Northern Ireland unifying with Ireland or remaining part of the U.K.
The U.K.’s Jan. 1 exit from the EU has created new tensions over trade and travel at the Irish border. Just Monday, the EU said it was starting legal action against the U.K., arguing that the former member does not respect the conditions of the Brexit withdrawal agreement and is violating international law by unilaterally extending a special trade system at the land border that was set up as part of the Brexit divorce deal.