Sunak eyes ‘better future’ for Northern Ireland as he hosts Biden in Belfast

Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak met on the Prime Minister's visit to the US Credit: PA

Rishi Sunak is focusing on fulfilling the promise of the Good Friday Agreement as he prepares to host Joe Biden in Northern Ireland to mark 25 years of the peace deal.

The Prime Minister said “making good” on the pledge of a “better future” for the nation is first and foremost on his mind ahead of the anniversary.

The commemorations come amid a heightened terror threat in Northern Ireland and powersharing in Stormont remaining collapsed amid post-Brexit tensions.

Signed on April 10 1998, the Good Friday Agreement ended the 30-year conflict of the Troubles, during which more than 3,500 people were killed.

Mr Sunak will meet the US president off Air Force One when he arrives on Tuesday evening.

Mr Biden, intensely proud of his Irish heritage and the US’s role in the peace accord, will take part in a series of engagements in Belfast including a formal meeting with the Prime Minister.

In a statement, Mr Sunak said the signing of the Good Friday Agreement was an “incredible moment” in the history of the UK.

“It was a powerfully rare example of people doing the previously unthinkable to create a better future for Northern Ireland,” he said.

“It is that promise of a better future that we offered to everyone in Northern Ireland that I will be thinking of first and foremost over the coming days.

“It is my responsibility as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to ensure we are making good on that promise.”

Mr Sunak said he is “relentlessly focused” on delivering economic growth for Northern Ireland, which he said is crucial to improving living standards.

He is expected to use Mr Biden’s visit to drum up long-term investment for the nation, and announce that the UK will host a Northern Ireland Investment Summit in September.

Rishi Sunak will meet President Joe Biden off Air Force One when he arrives on Tuesday Credit: Phil Noble/PA

The Prime Minister will address the “Agreement 25” conference at Queen’s University on Wednesday before hosting a gala dinner.

A major policing operation costing around £7 million and backed up by around 300 officers travelling from other parts of the UK will be under way around the anniversary.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has warned of the potential of dissident republicans launching attacks on police officers in Londonderry on Easter Monday.

MI5 recently raised the terrorism threat in Northern Ireland level to severe, meaning an attack is highly likely.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, has insisted the political vacuum in the nation caused by his party’s refusal to re-enter Stormont is not to blame.

In February last year the DUP withdrew its support for the powersharing institutions formed by the Good Friday Agreement as it protests against post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Mr Biden will leave Northern Ireland on Wednesday for the Republic, where he will visit Dublin, Co Louth and Co Mayo.

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