By Peter Kelly
PRESIDENT Joe Biden has, again, paid tribute to the North’s political leaders for their unity in the aftermath of the attack on PSNI Detective Chief Inspector, John Caldwell in Omagh.
In remarks during his visit to Belfast yesterday (Wednesday), the 46th American president said, “I want to once more recognise the way the leaders of Northern Ireland’s major political parties came together in the wake of the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector Caldwell to show that the enemies of peace will not prevail.”
He added, “The attack was a hard reminder that there will always be those who seek to destroy rather than rebuild. Northern Ireland will not go back, pray to God.”
The US President has nominated Joe Kennedy III as his Northern Ireland Envoy.
The former Massachussetts Congressman is the grandson of 1968 presidential candidate, Robert F Kennedy, and great-nephew of President John F Kennedy.
He added his voice to the condemnation of dissident republican violence telling the UH, “The future is clear, the future is shared, and there’s no place for violence in this community and society.”
Mr Biden also paid tribute to the victims and survivors community saying, “Every person killed in the Troubles left an empty chair at that dining-room table, and a hole in the heart that was never filled for the ones they lost.”
At the Ulster University event on Wednesday, President Biden spoke of his hopes that the Good Friday Agreement’s institutions would be restored. In the presence of Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris and DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the former Delaware Senator endorsed the recently-signed Windsor Framework as an attempt to restore power sharing at Stormont.
“The Windsor Framework addresses the practical realities of Brexit, and the essential step to ensuring hard-earned peace and progress of the Good Friday Agreement is that they’re preserved and strengthened,” he said.
Mr Biden reminded the invited audience, comprised of hundreds of students, political and civic leaders of what he called the ‘sea change’ that the 1998 Belfast Agreement created, and contrasted his visits before and after the 1994 ceasefires.
“This very university campus is situated in an intersection where conflict and bloodshed once held terrible sway.
“The idea, as I said, to have a glass building here when I was here in ‘91 was highly unlikely.”
In this first event of his landmark Irish visit, the US President also singled out Tyrone links to American history.
“Men born in Ulster were among those who signed the Declaration of Independence in the United States, pledging their lives, fortunes and sacred honour for freedom’s cause.
“The man who printed the revolutionary document was John Dunlap. He hailed from County Tyrone.”
Speaking to the UH at the event, First Minister designate, Michelle O’Neill, welcomed the President’s comments.
She said, “It’s very positive that he chose to be here to mark this anniversary.
“Successive US administrations have been so committed to our peace process from its inception.”