Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Number two Biden has a history over Irish debate

Americas President Elect

Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Obama.

The man who will be Barack Obama’s Vice-President once described Britain’s position in Northern Ireland as “absolutely outrageous”.

Joe Biden (65) hit the headlines in the 1980s for his stand against the deportation of IRA suspects from the US to Britain.

In 1985 he told the Senate during a debate on a possible extradition treaty: “If we ratify this treaty, we will be admitting that the justice system in Northern Ireland is fair — a notion I absolutely abhor.”

While he condemned IRA murderers, he spoke about the threat to the civil liberties of the IRA killers if they were ever returned to Northern Ireland.

The Delaware Senator, who will be number two at the White House in January, has Northern Irish ancestry.

His grandfather, Ambrose Finnegan, emigrated to the US from Londonderry around 1910. He was one of the hundreds of textile workers who came to work at the DuPont factories.

Just days after his election, US president-elect Barack Obama landed in hot water over his previous involvement in Northern Ireland issues.

A photograph emerged of him with IRA fugitive Rita O’Hare, who is wanted for attempted murder, and Sinn Fein boss Gerry Adams.

The DUP said it will give the man chosen as America’s first black president “the benefit of the doubt” over the photo.

Stormont junior minister Jeffrey Donaldson warned that Mr Obama would have to consider such photo opportunities carefully now he is in such a position of authority.

“I do hope that the president-elect will recognise that he must not be partisan in his approach to Northern Ireland,” he said.

“I think being photographed with someone like Rita O'Hare demonstrates a lapse of judgment at that time, but hope in his new role these type of mistakes will not be made in the future.”

She remains officially at large after fleeing charges of the attempted murder of a soldier in Belfast in 1971. She was shot and seriously wounded in the incident.

While on bail she fled to the Republic where she served a short jail term for an unrelated crime.

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