President Biden is greeted by Rishi Sunak as he touches down in Northern Ireland on Air Force One before he’s taken away in The Beast at start of four-day tour to mark 25th anniversary of Good Friday Agreement

Joe Biden was last night greeted in Northern Ireland by Rishi Sunak as the US President arrived at the start of a historic four-day tour of the island to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

The American leader touched down at RAF Aldergrove, near Belfast, in Air Force One, where he shook hands with the British Prime Minister before being taken away in an armoured car dubbed ‘The Beast’ amid a scattering of snow.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris was also present as Mr Biden alighted from the aircraft with US Special Envoy for Northern Ireland Joe Kennedy.

The US President will carry out several other engagements across the week to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which largely brought an end to the Troubles in Northern Ireland in 1998. He will meet the Prime Minister again on Wednesday for a bilateral meeting.

The leaders of Northern Ireland’s main political parties will also have the opportunity to engage with Mr Biden before he delivers an address at Ulster University’s new £350million Belfast campus.

The Stormont powersharing Assembly, which was established in the peace deal, is not currently operating due to a protest over post-Brexit trading arrangements by the DUP, the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland. However, the White House said there will not be a formal group meeting with the leaders.

Mr Sunak will not attend Mr Biden’s keynote speech, with Downing Street on Tuesday denying that the engagement between the pair would be ‘low-key’.

Speaking to reporters before his departure, Mr Biden said that his top priority was to ‘make sure the Irish accords and the Windsor Agreement stay in place, keep the peace’.

His son Hunter Biden and sister Valerie Biden Owen are believed to be accompanying him for the trip.

A major security operation will be in place for Mr Biden’s visit, with more than 300 officers from the rest of the UK being drafted into Northern Ireland.

Joe Biden landed at a military base this evening in Co Antrim, where he was greeted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the steps of Air Force One (pictured)

Biden was seen stepping off Air Force One onto the tarmac of RAF Aldergrove airbase in County Antrim this evening

Joe Biden arriving at City Hall in Belfast

The PSNI has also warned of significant traffic disruption in Belfast during the presidential visit, with a number of roads in the city centre already closed.

Mr Biden will also travel to the Republic of Ireland, where he will carry out a number of engagements during his four-day stay, including a speech in Dublin as well as visits to ancestral homelands.

After he leaves Belfast on Wednesday, Mr Biden will cross the border to attend engagements in Co Louth. The President has traced his ancestral roots to the area and he will tour Carlingford Castle in the county before spending the night in Dublin. He is then expected to visit Irish President Michael D Higgins on Thursday.

TUESDAY – Land in Belfast

WEDNESDAY -Meet Rishi Sunak in Belfast and go to Ulster University to mark the Good Friday agreement.

Biden will travel to Dublin and then to County Louth.

THURSDAY – Biden will hold separate meetings in Dublin with Irish President Michael Higgins and Prime Minister Leo Varadkar before addressing Dáil Éireann, the Irish parliament.

FRIDAY – Biden will visit County Mayo, exploring family genealogy and giving a speech about ties between the US and Ireland


It has been announced that Dublin’s Phoenix Park will be closed for 24 hours from 5pm on Wednesday to facilitate the visit. Mr Higgins’ official residence is within the park’s grounds.

The White House said Mr Biden will take part in a tree-planting ceremony and ringing of the Peace Bell at the President’s official residence, Aras an Uachtarain. Following that ceremony, he will meet again with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, whom Mr Biden recently hosted for St Patrick’s Day.

Mr Biden will address the Irish parliament and attend a banquet dinner at Dublin Castle on Thursday evening.

The President’s trip will conclude with a visit to Co Mayo, where he has also connected with distant cousins, on Friday. He will tour the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock and visit the North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Centre’s family history research unit. He will then make a public speech at St Muredach’s Cathedral in Ballina.

Monday marked 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland and left 3,600 people dead.

The President tweeted he would use the Belfast leg of his trip to underscore his nation’s ‘commitment to preserving peace and encouraging prosperity’ in the region.

But he was cautioned against exerting too much pressure on unionists by former prime minister Sir Tony Blair, one of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

He told Radio 4 Today: ‘One thing I learned about the unionists is if you try and pressurise them to do something that they’re fundamentally in disagreement with, it’s usually futile pressure, even if it comes from the US, so you’ve got to use that influence carefully.’

Biden was greeted at Belfast International Airport by Rishi Sunak just before 9.30pm

The American President was seen in conversation with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

President Joe Biden was greeted by Rishi Sunak and US Ambassador to the United Kingdom Jane Hartley (centre). To his right was United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland Joe Kennedy III

Biden and Sunak were all smiles as they spoke to each other on the tarmac of the air base

US President Joe Biden arrived in Air Force One at RAF Aldergrove airbase in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, on Tuesday evening

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives in Air Force One at RAF Aldergrove airbase in County Antrim, Northern Ireland April 11

The Prime Minister was pictured waiting for the American president at the bottom of the steps to Air Force One

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak greets U.S. President Joe Biden on his arrival at RAF Aldergrove airbase in County Antrim, Northern Ireland April 11

The American leader and the First Lady, Dr Jill Biden, touched down in Belfast in Air Force One this evening, where he was greeted by the British Prime Minister before being taken away in his armoured car, dubbed ‘The Beast’ (pictured)

The UK is observing the milestone anniversary with a reunion of key players in the peace process alongside Biden’s visit.

Deep divisions remain over the conflict’s legacy, and authorities raised the terrorism threat level in Northern Ireland to ‘severe’ in March as they warned of IRA dissidents opposed to the peace process.

Youths threw petrol bombs and set a police vehicle on fire during a dissident march in Londonderry on Monday.

Police said they had intelligence that a major attack had been planned so when masked teenagers threw petrol bombs at a vehicle, they simply withdrew rather than being sucked into what they thought might be an ambush.

The following day they said  they had recovered four pipe bombs from a cemetery near the city.

‘The discovery of these devices was a further sinister and worrying development,’ said Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton.

Security preparing for Joe Biden’s visit Meeting between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden, Belfast, Northern Ireland

President Joe Biden spoke to reporters before boarding Air Force One for Belfast, for a four-day trip that will also take him to the Republic of Ireland

Easter Monday brought violence to Derry, where masked teenagers through petrol bombs at a police vehicle during a march by dissident republicans opposed to the 1998 peace deal

Biden arrived with his son Hunter (far left) and sister Valerie Biden Owens for the trip

In Belfast, armored vehicles parked up outside the Grand Central hotel, where barriers were erected to close the street to traffic.

The violence is nothing compared with the decades of violence known as the Troubles, but Britain’s MI5 intelligence agency recently increased the threat level from domestic terrorism to ‘severe’ – meaning an attack is highly likely.

The result is a major policing operation. Some 300 officers have been drafted in from elsewhere in the U.K. to bolster numbers, with the whole cost coming to about £7million (about $8.7million).

Biden said last month that nothing would change his travel plans. ‘They can’t keep me out,’ he said.

While in Belfast Biden, who has long been known for his pro-Irish views, has been warned to tread carefully for fear of offending unionists loyal to London and who are boycotting the province’s power-sharing government.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said: ‘The President is very much looking forward to that trip and to celebrating the deep historic ties that our two countries and our two people continue to share.’

Ending decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, a period referred to as ‘the Troubles,’ meant balancing competing identities in the country, which remained in the United Kingdom when the rest of Ireland won independence a century ago. Irish nationalists in the north – most of them Catholic – seek union with the Republic of Ireland, while largely Protestant unionists want to stay with the U.K.

The Good Friday Agreement, struck on April 10, 1998, after almost two years of US-backed talks, committed armed groups to stop fighting, ended direct British rule and set up a Northern Ireland legislature and government with power shared between unionist and nationalist parties.

Brexit, which left Northern Ireland poised between the rest of Britain and EU member Ireland, has upset a delicate political balance, including the power-sharing system set up by the peace accord.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has not sat for more than a year, after the main unionist party pulled out of the government to protest new trade rules for Northern Ireland brought in after Brexit.

A more recent accord between the UK and the EU, known as the Windsor Framework, addressed some of the issues that arose around commerce and goods sent across the Irish Sea from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Biden praised the framework as an important step in maintaining the peace, though Northern Ireland’s political leaders have called for changes.

Asked as he prepared to leave Washington about his priorities for the trip, Biden said, ‘Make sure the Irish accords and the Windsor agreement stay in place. Keep the peace. That’s the main thing.’

Max Bergmann, director of the Europe, Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, said he would expect Biden to use the anniversary to highlight the positive role the US can play in forging peace around the world.

‘This is a real success, 25 years later, of US diplomacy, where the US was asked and then played a very critical role in bridging the divide between two of its friends and partners,’ Bergmann said in an interview. ‘I think this is a moment to mark that progress can happen in the world and the United States can play a central role in it.’

Excitement over Biden’s trip has been growing in the town of Ballina, from which one of the President’s great-great-grandfathers left for the United States in 1850.

Buildings are getting fresh coats of paint and American flags are being hung from shopfronts in Ballina, a bustling agricultural town of about 10,000 residents at the mouth of the River Moy in western Ireland. The center of town already has a mural of a beaming Biden, erected in 2020.

There is a heavy police presence in the center of Belfast ahead of Biden’s arrival

Roads have been closed around Biden’s hotel amid a huge police operation to keep him safe

Many people from Ballina and the surrounding County Mayo moved to Pennsylvania in the 19th century, and Ballina is twinned with Scranton, Biden’s hometown.

Joe Blewitt, a distant cousin who first met Biden when he visited Ballina as Vice President in 2016, said the US leader pledged to return once he’d won the presidency.

Blewitt said: ‘He said, ”I’m going to come back into Ballina.” And sure to God he’s going to come back into Ballina.

‘His Irish roots are really deep in his heart.’

The 43-year-old plumber was among Biden relations invited to the White House for St. Patrick’s Day last month. Blewitt said it was a ‘surreal’ experience; it included a half-hour private meeting with Biden.

Biden, who was accompanied on the trip by his sister Valerie and son Hunter, often peppers his public remarks with sayings from his late mother and father, and he regularly quotes Irish poets, including Seamus Heaney and William Butler Yeats. He recently boasted to White House guests that the mansion was designed and built by an Irish American, James Hoban.

Ireland’s Irish Family History Centre says Biden ‘is among the most `Irish’ of all US Presidents’ – 10 of his 16 great-great-grandparents were from the Emerald Isle. All left for the US during the Great Famine of the mid-19th century, which killed an estimated one million people.

More than 30 million people in the US, or about one in 10, claim Irish ancestry.

Biden is expected to float the idea of close investment ties between the U.S. and Northern Ireland to try to end the current political deadlock.

At times his comments have angered unionists as they tried to thrash out post-Brexit trade regulations.

‘The American involvement here has been a positive and a constructive one and fair in respect to the protocol issues,’ Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin told national broadcaster RTE, referring to the trade barriers that the European Union and UK agreed to ease in a recent deal endorsed by Biden.

Biden’s arrival to Northern Ireland today came after news broke that hardened IRA man turned British spy Freddie Scappaticci, who was one of the most controversial figures in the bloody history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, had died.

Freddie Scappaticci, who was aged in his 70s and always denied that he was the agent Stakeknife, died several days ago and was buried last week, it emerged on Tuesday.

Stakeknife worked within the IRA’s notorious ‘nutting squad’ interrogating suspected informers during the Troubles. The alleged activities of Stakeknife and the role of security services including MI5 are under investigation in Operation Kenova led by former Bedfordshire chief constable, Jon Boutcher.

The probe is examining claims that Scappaticci could have been responsible for the kidnap, murder and torture of as many as 50 individuals. Last week, it was announced that the publication of the report had been delayed, it now appears, because of his death.

Comment Disabled for this post!