BELFAST, Northern Ireland. President Joe Biden said “the enemies of peace will not prevail” in Northern Ireland as he pledged the United States would continue to partner and support the region in building stability and future prosperity for its young people.
In his keynote address in Belfast on April 12, marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, President Biden said the lesson of the ground-breaking accord was that “when things seem fragile, or easily broken, that is when hope and hard work are needed the most.”
“That’s why we must make our theme: repair, repair. In the holy Easter season – this season when all Christians celebrate renewal and life – the Good Friday Agreement shows us that there is hope for repair, even in the most awful breakages.”
The April 1998 accord forged peace in Northern Ireland after decades of violence that claimed the lives of more than 3,600 people. As well as saving potentially hundreds of lives, the agreement, which was brokered by U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, also established a devolved power-sharing government for Northern Ireland’s deeply divided people, fissured between Protestant-Unionists-Loyalists and Catholic-Nationalists-Republicans.
The U.S. president spoke ahead of officially opening the $437 million Ulster University campus in Belfast.
The president recalled his visit to Belfast in 1991, when the city was “sliced up” by barbed wire. Today, instead of barbed wire “we find a cathedral of learning built of glass that lets the light shine in and out,” the president, who is Catholic and of Irish descent, said of the new university campus.
“We all remember so well those terrible days of barbed wire, broken glass, and lost lives. The president’s welcome visit and helpful words highlight hope,” said Father Patrick McCafferty, parish priest of Corpus Christi in Ballymurphy, West Belfast, the scene of a massacre in 1971 when the British Army killed 10 innocent civilians.
“Our resilient community, which suffered so much, never lost or abandoned hope,” Father McCafferty said. “We hoped against hope when all seemed quite hopeless.”