WASHINGTON -- Sporting a green tie and shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day, President Joe Biden on Friday voiced his support for a recent economic accord affecting Ireland as he hosted the republic's prime minister, a long-standing meetup scuttled by the covid-19 pandemic the past two years.
While the annual Washington tradition is about celebrating the historic bonds of Ireland and the United States, Biden also took time to reflect on the approaching 25th anniversary of the U.S.-brokered Good Friday accord -- the agreement that helped end sectarian violence that had raged for decades over the question of Northern Ireland unifying with Ireland or remaining part of the United Kingdom.
The president also underscored a more recent agreement, known as the Windsor Framework, that aims to ease tensions over Northern Ireland's trading status in the aftermath of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union and to maintain the quarter century-old peace accord.
"It's a vital, vital step and that's going to help ensure all the people in Northern Ireland have an opportunity to realize their full potential," Biden said of the framework at a Capitol Hill luncheon to mark the holiday.
Earlier at the White House, he was presented with a bowl of shamrocks from Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland, a tradition that began in 1952.
Biden, who often speaks of his Irish heritage, declared March Irish-American heritage month. The White House even dyed the water of the South Lawn fountain green for the occasion.
Biden said he plans to visit the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom, to mark the 25th anniversary of the peace accord. In addition to his praise in that area, Vradeker saluted Biden and the U.S. for helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia.
"We really want to profoundly thank you and America for your leadership in relation to Ukraine," Varadker said. "We're going to roll out the red carpet" for Biden's visit in Ireland, he said.
The Good Friday agreement came under increasing stress following the U.K.'s exit from the European Union, but the recent accord between the U.K. and the EU addresses some of the issues that arose around commerce and goods that cross the Irish Sea.
The White House said the Windsor Framework is an important step in maintaining the peace accord and Biden on Friday spoke of support for the framework, though Northern Ireland's political leaders have called for changes.
Varadkar told the crowd there that Ireland is grateful for the "close and deep bond with these United States."
He said the U.S. has played a central role in promoting peace in Ireland "at critical points when few others had the influence to do so." And Varadkar said the U.S. has been strong on LGBTQ rights.
"From Stonewall to Sacramento to San Francisco. America has led the way when it comes to LGBT equality," he said. "I don't think I would be here today were it not for what America did."
Varadkar met with the president in the Oval Office before heading to the Capitol for a lunch with congressional leaders.
Biden was hosting a reception for Varadkar later Friday at the White House, which was designed and built by Irish-born James Hoban.
According to the Census Bureau, roughly 31.5 million U.S. residents claim Irish heritage, second only to German links.