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Northern Ireland won't be on Joe Biden's radar


Joe Biden

Joe Biden


Joe Biden

Joe Biden's long-held dream of becoming President of the USA has been realised at last, making him the 46th holder of the office. But no one could ever have imagined that what is always an onerous job could have developed into an almost impossible one with the country riven along racial, economic and social lines as never before.

And if that was not enough, overshadowing everything is the out-of-control coronavirus pandemic that has killed more Americans than were lost in the Second World War.

His entry into the White House has brought the expected reaction from politicians here.

President Biden has been keen to play up his Irish ancestry and during the Brexit negotiations warned that if a hard border was established in Ireland there would be no UK trade deal with the US.

That did not play well with unionists.

Nor did a joke he cracked on St Patrick's Day in 2015 when he told Taoiseach Enda Kenny that if he was wearing orange he would not be welcome. Even those who saw the joke thought it was in poor taste.

Nationalist politicians will hope to resurrect some of the old relationship between Northern Ireland and the White House, but the reality is that the days when special American envoys were flown in at a moment's notice to sort out some political impasse here are long gone. Those were heady days for local politicians, who found themselves in a world spotlight, but President Biden will not be another President Clinton, who saw Northern Ireland as a foreign policy success.

We still maintain an office in Washington DC but it essentially concentrates on trade deals rather than politics. Investment remains vital for the province.

Northern Ireland has a long-standing template on division and a century after its formation the wounds have not fully healed. But even our divisions are much less than those confronting President Biden. Healing America, a major theme of his inauguration address, will not be easy to accomplish, and along with the pandemic will occupy much of his early presidency.

As well he will be keen to reinstate old alliances in Europe and Asia, which were broken by Donald Trump.

Few Presidents have ever entered office with such a full and pressing in-tray and there is little likelihood of us featuring in it. And given the new President's age, his is likely to be a one-term administration. The challenges facing him domestically will occupy most of that time. Our problems, from the American perspective, have been solved.

Belfast Telegraph

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