12 April 2023

President Biden ‘sent a clear message to the DUP’ over Stormont – O’Neill

12 April 2023

US President Joe Biden sent a “clear message to the DUP”, Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill has said.

During a visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Biden said he hoped the Assembly and the Executive will soon be restored, adding it could draw even greater opportunity in the region.

The powersharing institutions have been effectively collapsed for more than a year while the DUP refuse to participate until their concerns around the Brexit Protocol are addressed.

Mr Biden briefly met the leaders of the five largest parties before making his address at the new Ulster University campus.

Ms O’Neill said she felt his message was “on the right note”.

“I think he sent a very clear message that everything that has been achieved over the past 25 years is something to be celebrated, but he very much was future focused, he was looking forward to the next 25 years, it was about the hope and the opportunity, but I think his message was clear, we need peace, we need stability and we need prosperity, those things all go hand in hand,” she said.

“I think his message was very much on the right note.”

She added: “I think the message here from this visit is going to be one about peace, prosperity and about stability, and that means we need the political leg of things to work as well.

“I’m committed to making it work.

“Where I’m focused is about trying to get Stormont up and running again, and make politics work.”

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long praised a “positive and balanced message” from the president.

“During our brief discussion, I spoke to President Biden about Northern Ireland’s economy and also the need for political stability,” she said.

“Between both that and his later speech, the president gave a positive and balanced message that was optimistic for both our economy and future.

“He was also well aware of the challenges facing the restoration of the Assembly and Executive, but was keen to see that happen as soon as possible.

“When one of the largest economies in the world spends its time, effort and money showcasing us, we need to grasp that opportunity with both hands.

“However, we can’t do that at present due to the political impasse and those causing that need to reflect on their actions.”

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said the visit of the US President is an “indication of the scale of opportunity that stands to be grasped for our people”.

“I believe this opportunity must be grasped by a restored Assembly and Executive,” he said.

“Whilst today there was rightly reflection on the importance of the Belfast Agreement in securing the peace we have enjoyed for 25 years now, there was also a welcome focus on prosperity.

“The next 25 years must be about delivering opportunities and prosperity for all our people.

“I believe the USA can play an important role in helping to deliver this and I will work with the president’s administration to make this a reality.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said, during his meeting with the president, Mr Biden was “very clear” that the US administration and US businesses “are ready to come and invest” but work should go on to restore the Assembly.

“I reminded him that John Hume used to say the best peace process was a job, and of course he agreed with that,” he said.

“We’ve seen great strides over the last 25 years but I can tell you from outside of Belfast, places like Derry, there is a lot further to go yet and we really need investment.”

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