White House officials have visited Belfast over possible trip by US president next month

Members of the Secret Service also toured sites in Dublin and elsewhere in the Republic as part of the planning for a multi-destination visit to the island

White House officials have visited Belfast in advance of a potential trip by US president Joe Biden next month. Officials and members of the Secret Service are understood to have arrived in Northern Ireland last weekend to scope out possible venues for the expected visit. They also toured sites in Dublin and elsewhere in the Republic as part of the planning for a multi-destination visit to the island.

While no dates for a visit have been finalised, there is an expectation that a trip, if confirmed, would take place in April when the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement occurs.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will meet Mr Biden in Washington DC next week as part of the annual St Patrick’s programme of events in the US capital. Political leaders from Northern Ireland will also be in Washington next week, and some believe it could be the point when a presidential visit to Ireland is confirmed and announced.

Former US president Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton are already expected in Belfast next month for events to commemorate the accord, which largely ended the Troubles. Other key figures involved in securing the deal are also due to visit.


There had been speculation that Mr Biden’s visit might not materialise if the powersharing impasse at Stormont remains ongoing in April. The DUP is blocking the operation of the institutions created by the deal in protest at the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol. The party is currently deliberating on whether to accept a new UK-EU deal on trading arrangements for Northern Ireland – the Windsor Framework – and return to Stormont.

It is understood that the devolution impasse will not be a determining factor for US officials planning the potential visit by Mr Biden. The US president has a deep affection for his Irish ancestry and a visit to the island has been expected since his election.

Mr Biden can trace his ancestry to Ireland’s west and east coasts, specifically Ballina in Co Mayo and the Cooley Peninsula in Co Louth.

His great-great-grandfather, Owen Finnegan, emigrated to the US from Cooley while another great-great-grandfather, Patrick Blewitt, was born in Ballina, leaving during the Famine in 1850 for the US. Any visit to Ireland as president would be anticipated to include aspects related to his ancestry. – PA