Biden recommits to Good Friday accord on St. Patrick’s Day

President Biden's first 100 days

President Joe Biden visits Smith Flooring, Inc., in Chester, Pa., Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON  (AP) — 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, held a virtual meeting Wednesday with Ireland’s prime minister, Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Before the meeting, the president attended a morning Mass at the aptly named St. Patrick’s Church near his family home in Wilmington, Delaware, then returned to the White House to partake in the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, which were toned down due to the coronavirus pandemic. In keeping with recent tradition, the water in fountains outside the White House ran green for the day.

Biden and Martin’s virtual bilateral meeting — Biden’s third with a foreign leader since he took office eight weeks ago — included the presentation of an engraved bowl of shamrock, which was sent ahead to Washington. It ensured that a tradition that began in 1952 continued uninterrupted, if modified by COVID-19 concerns.

The White House said 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.

Biden told Martin that it is “critically important” that the Good Friday Agreement be maintained.

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.

The White House stressed that the U.S. continues to support the Good Friday Agreement and its implementation. It called the agreement “the bedrock of peace, stability, and prosperity for all the people of Northern Ireland.”

Biden and Martin’s meeting also will emphasize their commitment to addressing global challenges and combating the coronavirus, among other issues, the White House said.

“Our two countries are committed to working together to safely restore global travel, work within multilateral fora to prevent and respond to future outbreaks, and ensure a sustainable global economic recovery,” the White House said in a statement.

Biden told Martin he hopes to hold the ceremony in Washington next year, noting the White House will be lit green on Wednesday evening to “celebrate the deep deep affection Americans have, particularly Irish Americans, for Ireland.”

“We Irish are the only people who are nostalgic for the future,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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