Boycotting Joe Biden speech to Oireachtas is wrong choice, McDonald says

The Sinn Féin leader said she did not agree with People Before Profit's decision.
Boycotting Joe Biden speech to Oireachtas is wrong choice, McDonald says

Press Association

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has said she shares concerns about aspects of US foreign policy, but said it would be wrong to boycott US president Joe Biden’s address to both Houses of the Oireachtas.

People Before Profit will boycott the speech by the US president later over objections to his foreign policy.

Ms McDonald told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme that she did not agree with the party’s decision, saying: “I think that’s the wrong choice.”

She heaped praise on US involvement in the peace process, but indicated that she shared concerns about the US record in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as its position on Israel.

The Sinn Féin leader said “there wouldn’t have been a peace process without America”, as she stressed the country’s positive contribution to the island.

US President Joe Biden Visits Ireland
The Samuel Beckett bridge is illuminated in the colours of the US flag on Wednesday night. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty

Asked directly if she shared left-wing criticisms of US foreign policy, she said: “Of course I do. And those are legitimate criticisms. I very much doubt that anybody in the American administration is unaware of the wide criticism of many of their foreign policy stances.”

Ms McDonald indicated that she would not raise Sinn Féin concerns about the US stance on Israel with President Biden when she speaks to him later, but said that no-one could be “ambiguous” about her party’s own position.

She also said that when speaking to Mr Biden, her first “port of call” would be issues on the island of Ireland.

Asked on Morning Ireland if she would say anything about Israel to the president, she said: “I’ll meet him today. I’m not sure what opportunity I will have to have any length of a conversation with him.

“My first port of call with the president is Ireland and Irish affairs, marking progress, marking their contribution, but my position as regards Palestine, the rights of the Palestinian people, and Israeli apartheid are well, well documented.

“There is nobody with any ambiguous or lack of clarity of my or Sinn Fein’s position on all of those matters. Today, this visit is about Ireland.

“This visit is about the political impasse that we have here.

“The political opportunities that I want us to grasp with both hands, and the United States of America is a partner in that, and for the criticism of their foreign policy, be very clear, Ireland, building peace in Ireland, the success of all of this is very much an American foreign policy triumph, and is very, very much to their credit.”

Mr Biden is on a four-day trip to the island of Ireland.

Before his address to both houses of the Oireachtas, Mr Biden will visit President Michael D Higgins at his official residence in Phoenix Park and will also have a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at nearby Farmleigh House.

At Farmleigh, the president will be invited to watch a sports demonstration by young gaelic games players.

After his parliamentary address on Thursday afternoon, Mr Biden will attend a banquet in his honour at Dublin Castle hosted by Taoiseach Mr Varadkar.

US president Joe Biden takes a selfie while on a walkabout through Dundalk, Co Louth. Photo: PA

His first full day of engagements on Wednesday began in Northern Ireland and saw him deliver a keynote address in Belfast.

In his speech to Ulster University, Mr Biden expressed hopes of a return to powersharing at Stormont as he insisted stable devolved government could deliver an economic windfall for the region.

His visit north of the border came as the region marks the 25th anniversary of the landmark Good Friday peace accord that created Stormont’s institutions.

After his address in Belfast, Mr Biden travelled to Dublin and from there to Co Louth, where he can trace some of his ancestors.

People lined the streets in Carlingford and Dundalk to cheer and wave American flags as Mr Biden arrived.

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