Joe Biden declared he wants to keep the peace in Northern Ireland after pipe bombs were found hours ahead of his arrival. His visit is being overshadowed by rising tension – including a rallying call to join the IRA. MI5 said the terrorism threat level in the region had increased due to a rise in activity by dissident republicans.
And police discovered four suspected pipe bombs in a cemetery in Londonderry just hours before Mr Biden was due to land.
The US president is in Belfast to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
He is expected to hail the “tremendous progress” since the peace deal was agreed and he vowed to back PM Rishi Sunak’s Windsor Framework, which aims to ease trade with the EU.
Asked what his top priority is during his four-day trip, Mr Biden said: “Make sure the Irish accords and theWindsorAgreement stay in place – keep the peace.”
Mr Sunak met the President at Belfast airport last night. The two leaders will meet again today before Mr Biden speaks at Ulster University’s new £350million Belfast campus.
The Prime Minister hopes the new Windsor Framework will convince the DUP to return to the power-sharing agreement – a key element of the Good Friday Agreement. The Northern Ireland Assembly has not been functioning since February last year.
The DUP says Mr Sunak’s new deal gives Brussels too much influence. The party last night said Mr Biden’s visit would not pressure them into ending their boycott of power sharing.
Tension has been intensifying ahead of the President’s visit.
Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said: “Last week we warned we had strong community intelligence there may be attempts to draw police into serious public disorder in Londonderry – and to use that as a platform to launch terrorist attacks on police.
“That intelligence played out yesterday and today with disorder involving young children throwing ready-made petrol bombs and other missiles at police.
“The discovery of the devices was a further sinister and worrying development.
“The actions of those responsible are reprehensible and show a complete disregard and utter contempt for the community.
“These suspected pipe bombs were left in a cemetery. That is absolutely shameful.”
Masked youths threw petrol bombs at police during an illegal parade linked to Saoradh, the political wing of the New IRA on
Monday. The march included teenagers dressed in paramilitary outfits, to commemorate the 1916 Easter uprising.
During a speech afterwards people were told to join the IRA.
Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair last night urged Mr Biden not to push the DUP too far.
Sir Tony, who negotiated the Good Friday accord, said: “One thing I learnt about the unionists is if you try to pressurise them to do something that they are fundamentally in disagreement with, it is usually futile pressure. Even if it comes from the US.”
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