Joe Biden’s commitment to defending the Good Friday agreement is part of his political history and identity. But it is also a pillar of American foreign policy, a rare issue for a bipartisan consensus on an otherwise hyperpolarized political scene, one of the few positions Biden can take on the world stage without provoking Republican fire.
Biden’s emotional attachment to Ireland was constant throughout his adult life and also became part of his political identity. He regularly refers to his mother̵
After winning the election in November, BBC’s Nick Bryant asked if there was a “quick word” for British television. “The BBC?” The president replied. “I’m Irish.”
At his first full press conference as president in March, he recalled that his great-grandfather had been forced to leave Ireland “because of what the British had done.”
Biden sees his contribution to peace in Ireland as an important part of his legacy. In the 1980s, he was in a group of senators who began pushing for greater US diplomatic involvement to end the conflict. From his seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he helped the Clinton administration commit resources and political capital to mediate the 1998 agreement.
Insisting on the observance of an international treaty, Biden seeks to restore the rule of law at the heart of US foreign policy, something his predecessor might have seen as optional.
Unlike the nuclear deal with Iran, the Good Friday agreement is not seen as a purely democratic achievement. George W. Bush also continued to apply during his presidency. Even the US special envoy Mick Mulvani was sent to the Trump administration to warn Brexiters about the risk of creating a hard border “accidentally” on the island of Ireland.
When Democrat Bob Menendez and Republican Susan Collins sponsored a Senate resolution in March reaffirming bilateral support for the agreement, it won unanimous support.
“The inclusive power-sharing system created by the Good Friday agreement was a remarkable achievement that established a framework for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland,” Collins said at the time. “Our resolution encourages all parties to continue to work for the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, as well as subsequent agreements that promote peace and stability on the island of Ireland.”
Democrats and Republicans from the Friends of Ireland group in Congress have repeatedly signaled that Britain will have no hope of concluding a free trade deal with the United States if Brexit and the forgery of the Brexit agreement threaten Irish peace.
Brendan Boyle, a congressman from the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania and a leading member of the Friends of Ireland group, told the Guardian: Defending the Good Friday Agreement and keeping the peace on the island of Ireland is one of the few.
“And it’s not just among selected employees. If you had to interview foreign policy and national security experts, whether they were left-handed or right-handed, you would find the same consensus. Honestly, this is simply not a dispute in the United States. This is settled. What the Boris Johnson government is doing in the Brexit negotiations really isolates Britain from all its traditional allies. “