A presidential visit would shine a spotlight on Northern Ireland politics
US President Joe Biden could visit Ireland as early as this summer, it has been reported.
The Sunday Times has pointed to sources who say that such a visit would bring an international focus to a potential stand-off at Stormont if Sinn Fein emerges as the largest party in Northern Ireland at May’s election.
The DUP has refused on numerous occasions to say whether it would nominate a deputy First Minister in such circumstances.
Biden’s visit could also exert pressure on EU-UK negotiations over the NI Protocol if they remain deadlocked at that time.
According to the Sunday Times, Taoiseach Micheal Martin and a senior government official have told Fianna Fail TDs that President Biden is expected to visit Ireland this year, possibly as soon as the summer.
It reports that dates are likely to be agreed when Mr Martin visits the White House on St Patrick’s Day.
A visit before mid-July would allow Biden, known to be proud of his Irish roots, to address the joint houses of the Oireachtas before TDs and senators begin their two-month summer recess.
The last person to address the joint houses of the Oireachtas was Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, in April 2019.
An escalation in the situation in Ukraine is seen as a potential obstacle to Biden’s travel plans.
Former US President Barack Obama had a 24 hour stopover in Ireland back in May 2011.
As part of the visit, he travelled to his ancestral home in Moneygall, Co Offaly, where he famously drank a pint of Guinness and joked with the owners.
In 1995, Bill Clinton became the first serving US President to visit Northern Ireland.
Along with wife Hilary, he was given a rapturous reception by people on both sides of the sectarian divide as they visited the Shankill and Falls.
They switched the Christmas lights on in Belfast and also visited Derry, a city he returned to in 2010 to promote the peace process and economic growth.