President Joe Biden on Saturday praised political leaders in Northern Ireland after Irish nationalist Michelle O’Neill was appointed the region’s first minister, ending a two-year standoff.
“I welcome and strongly support the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly at Stormont, and I commend the political leaders of Northern Ireland for taking the necessary steps to restore these core institutions,” the president said in a statement.
As a senator, Biden helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement, which mostly ended decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland and established a power-sharing arrangement in 1998.
On a visit to Belfast last year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the agreement, Biden underscored the importance of the agreement and reaffirmed his continued support to the region.
Northern Ireland struggled for two years to form a government under rules that require its main pro-British party — the Democratic Unionist Party — to share power with Irish nationalist party Sinn Féin, O’Neill’s party.
Stormont, the region’s government seat, was practically frozen in a standoff after the DUP walked out in protest over trade issues related to Brexit.
“I look forward to seeing the renewed stability of a power-sharing government that strengthens the peace dividend, restores public services, and continues building on the immense progress of the last decades,” Biden said in his statement, nodding to the fact that power will be split between O’Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly, from the Democratic Unionist Party.
Though the two will be equals, O’Neill, whose party won more seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly in the 2022 elections, will hold the more prestigious title.
O’Neill becomes the the first leader from the Irish Catholic side of the divide.
“To all of you who are British and unionist, your national identity, your cultures, your traditions are important to me,” O’Neill declared to the unionist benches on the far side of the Stormont chamber.