The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, and his wife Sabina received the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, on a courtesy call at Áras an Uachtaráin. The visit formed part of President Biden’s official visit to Ireland.
Following the ceremonial welcome, a meeting took place between the two Heads of State. At their meeting, President Higgins welcomed President Biden back to Ireland at what is the third meeting between the two Heads of State at Áras an Uachtaráin. President Biden previously visited President Higgins in June 2016 during his term as Vice President, then again in September 2017 when President Higgins hosted him for lunch.
The topics discussed by the two Heads of State at their meeting this morning included both bilateral and global issues:
- President Higgins thanked President Biden for his continuing support for the Good Friday Agreement and the two Presidents discussed the need for continued work to build on and strengthen the Peace Process in Northern Ireland;
- The contribution of the Irish in America to American society, as well as the challenges which members of the diaspora continue to face;
- The future of work – President Higgins spoke about President Biden’s long-term support for collective bargaining and the right for trade unions to organise, including the importance of the green transition;
- President Higgins noted President Biden’s strong support for same sex marriage and LQGBTQ+ rights;
- The importance of our shared responsibilities on global issues such as climate change, global food security and the need to prioritise implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals;
- The Presidents discussed the significance of Pope Francis’ repudiation of the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’, which was used to justify the abuse and suppression of indigenous peoples, including in the Americas, and the opportunities for creating a stronger relationship between the United States and South America;
- President Higgins’ series of Machnamh 100 seminars examining the seminal events of a century ago which led to Irish independence; and
- The latest situation with regard to the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the need to prevent escalation, and the future of the United Nations and global peace.
Following the meeting, President Biden planted an Irish oak tree in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin. In doing so, he followed in the footsteps of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, each of whom have previously planted a tree on the grounds.
President Biden then rang the Peace Bell. This was particularly significant as President Biden’s visit takes place in the week of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The Peace Bell was erected in 2008 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Agreement and has been rung by a wide range of distinguished visitors in the years since.
Before his departure, President Higgins introduced President Biden to a number of invited guests, representing Irish civil society. President Higgins also met with members of President Biden’s delegation and welcomed them to Ireland, including current and former Members of the United States Congress.
In a statement following the courtesy call, President Higgins said:
“I was delighted to welcome President Biden back to Áras an Uachtaráin today, in what was his first visit as President of the United States.
The Irish people are very conscious of our strong connection to President Biden and I was pleased to acknowledge the warmth of the welcome which President Biden has already received in Louth and which I have no doubt he will receive tomorrow in Mayo, the two counties of his own closest heritage.
It is timely that President Biden is visiting not only on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, but also in the year that marks the 60th anniversary of the visit of President John F. Kennedy to Ireland in June 1963.
Like so many Irish people, President Biden’s family emigrated to the United States in the mid-19th century and we remain very aware both of our links to those who emigrated in those times, and also those who have migrated to America and across the world in the decades since, and to the particular challenges which many of our diaspora continue to face.
At our meeting, President Biden and I exchanged views on a number a topics.
This year marks the half way point in the implementation timeframe for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which were agreed in New York in 2015 with the aim of achieving them by 2030. From the outset, it has been clear that implementation of the SDGs, and responding to climate change in particular, requires a significant paradigm shift – one which would include changes at a multilateral, national and local level.
The global public have shown a strong identification with local environmental interests and made early steps towards the changes necessary. However, significant challenges remain at the national and international level, particularly in relation to the growth of unaccountable corporate power.
In this context, we discussed President Biden’s continuing support for the trade union movement, as well as his work to ensure sustainable change and transformation and a green transition through his economic policies, including in the automotive industry and investment in infrastructure expenditure.
I was also pleased to once again have the opportunity to discuss Irish artistic and cultural works with President Biden, and in particular our shared interest in Patrick Kavanagh - one of our greatest Irish poets whose work is so familiar to Irish migrants, in particular evoking, as it does, fields left behind and a spirit seeking freedom.”