US president Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris have been invited to Northern Ireland when public health conditions allow.
The invitation was extended during a virtual meeting with Stormont first minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill on St Patrick’s Day.
During the meeting, the president and vice president expressed their strong support for the Good Friday Agreement, noting that the balance of Northern Ireland’s relationships — north-south, east-west, and internally — can benefit all of Northern Ireland’s communities.
They also conveyed support for the Northern Ireland Protocol and encouraged the leaders to continue working together toward a forward-looking Northern Ireland with a prosperous economy that reflects the identities and aspirations of all traditions.
Foster, the leader of the DUP, and O’Neill, vice president of Sinn Fein have differing views of the post Brexit arrangements which sees additional checks on some goods at Northern Ireland’s ports to avoid the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The DUP is urging the UK government to ditch the protocol, claiming it creates a border in the Irish Sea.
In a statement after the meeting, Foster described the engagement as “extremely valuable”.
“It provided an opportunity to further strengthen our links with the US and look forward to our economic recovery, which will be a key focus for us as we emerge from the pandemic,” Foster said.
“Investment will be a crucial part of rejuvenating our economy and, as our largest international investor, there is huge potential in our relationship with the United States.”
O’Neill said both president Biden and vice president Harris “reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the Irish peace process” and support for the Good Friday Agreement.
“I invited both president Biden and vice-president Harris to visit the North when both sides of the Atlantic overcome the Covid-19 global health pandemic, and together recover and rebuild our societies and economies,” she said.
Foster and O’Neill earlier virtually addressed the NI Bureau’s annual showcase event to a large virtual audience including political, business and tourism leaders in the United States and beyond.
The event – delivered in partnership with InvestNI, Tourism Ireland and Tourism NI – was designed to showcase Northern Ireland’s tourism offering as well as opportunities for business investors.
Foster added: “As first minister, I am so proud of Northern Ireland and always welcome the opportunity to showcase our wonderful people and amazing places to the rest of the world.
“While we had to do things differently this year, the virtual NI Bureau event was a wonderful reflection of what makes Northern Ireland so special.”