Joe Biden to meet Irish PM amid anger over war in Gaza

By Thomson Reuters Mar 15, 2024 | 5:04 AM

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden will host Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Friday for the annual St. Patrick’s Day reception at the White House, even as a portion of the usual Irish delegation boycotts the event over Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza.

During a speech in Boston on Tuesday, Varadkar said he will use the opportunity to tell Biden “how Irish people feel, and that is that we want to see a ceasefire immediately, for the killing to stop, the hostages to be released without condition, food and medicine to get into Gaza.”

Ireland has traditionally been one of Western Europe’s strongest critics of Israeli policies towards Palestinians and maintains a long-held policy of military neutrality.

The SDLP, Northern Ireland’s smaller nationalist party, said it was not sending any representatives to Washington this week.

Last month, Ireland announced more than $21 million in support for the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) after it plunged into crisis and is in talks with other EU members who want a review of the EU-Israel Association Agreement on the basis that Israel may be breaching the agreement’s human rights clause.

The White House said the two leaders would discuss support for Ukraine, coordination on the war in the Middle East, and reaffirm their support for the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

Biden, who often speaks of his Irish heritage and is fond of quoting Irish poets, visited Ireland last April to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and expressed his support for the peace deal.

During the tour of Ireland, the longest ever by a sitting U.S. president, Biden visited his ancestral hometown, had a chance meeting with the priest who performed the last rites on his son Beau, addressed the Irish parliament and attended a state banquet at Dublin Castle.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington. Editing by Gerry Doyle)