UK politician slams Biden over Northern Ireland remarks

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A lawmaker from Northern Ireland’s biggest pro-UK party on Thursday condemned Joe Biden after the US president made contentious remarks about his recent visit to the territory.

Biden said the purpose of his trip last month was “to make sure... the Brits didn’t screw around” with peace in Northern Ireland, and “didn’t walk away from their commitments.”

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The comments, relayed in a White House transcript, came as Biden addressed a Democratic party gathering in New York on Wednesday.

Biden visited Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, which ended three decades of violence in the UK province, with US mediation.

During the visit, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) lawmaker Sammy Wilson accused the Irish-American president of being “anti-British,” and he was angered by the latest intervention.

“If you believe that there should be a special relationship between the US and UK then at least show us some respect,” Wilson told London’s Evening Standard newspaper.

“It’s unbelievable and frightening as well to think this is the man who is the leader of the free world,” he added.

The DUP, which wants Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK, is currently boycotting the region’s power-sharing government over bitter disagreements on post-Brexit trade.

A renegotiation of the trade protocol by the EU and UK -- labelled the Windsor Framework -- was largely aimed at remedying unionist concerns that it put Northern Ireland’s position in the UK under threat.

But the deal has so far been spurned by the DUP.

Asked about Biden’s remarks, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said the framework is “a culmination of substantive work between the UK and the EU.”

“And at its heart the UK priority was always protecting the Good Friday Agreement,” he told reporters.

Under Sunak’s predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, the UK’s hardline tactics with the EU had drawn warnings from Washington that peace in Northern Ireland could be undermined.

Biden won backing from Mary Lou McDonald, president of the Sinn Fein party, which wants Irish reunification.

The US position has consistently been “to oppose very vigorously anything that would threaten to undermine either the peace or the Good Friday Agreement”, she said.

“So I think President Biden in his own way is simply reiterating a position which has been very clear for a long time.”

During his visit to Ireland, Biden also congratulated an Irish rugby player -- a distant relative -- who he said had “beat the hell out of the Black and Tans.”

Biden meant New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team. The Black and Tans were a notorious British force that sought to quell Irish independence fighters in the early 1920s.

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