A unionist MP has accused a nationalist rival of being embarrassed by “gaffe prone pin-up Presidential poster boy” Joe Biden. DUP MP, Ian Paisley Jr, lashed out at nationalist MP, Claire Hanna, after she advised Mr Biden to avoid any anti-British jokes during his visit to Northern Ireland. Ms Hanna, who represents South Belfast for the Social Democratic and Labour Party, claimed unionists would seize on any gaffes or asides for their own political gains.
Mr Biden is known to be proud of his Irish ancestry and has previously made remarks which caused offence among members of Northern Ireland’s unionist community.
When he was president-elect in 2020, Mr Biden made a cheeky swipe at a BBC reporter who shouted a question at him.
He replied with a smile: “The BBC? I’m Irish.”
The US President is expected to meet with Stormont’s main political parties as part of his visit. He has said the trip will underscore his country’s “commitment to preserving peace and encouraging prosperity” in Northern Ireland.
Mr Biden will arrive in Northern Ireland on Tuesday night as he begins a visit to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
The US leader has a habit of peppering remarks about his Irish roots with recollections on his mother’s anti-Englishness and jokes about the Protestant community.
Ms Hanna told MailOnline: “Any such gaffes would be mercilessly weaponized by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).”
The DUP has been approached for comment.
DUP MP, Ian Paisley Jr, told Express.co.uk: “Ms Hanna’s comments appear to reveal that she is very sensitive to the fact her pin-up presidential poster boy is so gaffe prone she must enter an early warning disclaimer and clarification.”
“The DUP is always very welcoming of any president, past or present, who wishes to come to Northern Ireland and encourage investment. The president, no matter how long or short he is here, will be welcome by unionists.
“Unionists don’t need a pre-cooked, fear driven early warning disclaimer about president Biden’s politics on Northen Ireland. He is an Irish-American and is campaigning for that lobby vote in the USA presidential elections.
“His views on the UK and Ireland are well known and contain no surprise. The fact a virtually unknown Irish nationalist must read out an early warning disclaimer says it all: that Irish nationalists are even embarrassed by his views and his many – sometimes daily – gaffes. Maybe the first gaffe is Ms Hanna’s statement!”
The MP for North Antrim added the credibility of Mr Biden’s views on Northern Ireland are “very thin anyway” and will not sway anyone.
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Mr Paisley said: “I trust he has an enjoyable visit. However, according to Claire Hanna, the now much vaunted 24-hour comedy or error show appears to await us all.”
Mr Biden’s visit comes as the Stormont powersharing Assembly, established in the Good Friday Agreement peace deal, is not currently operating due to a protest over post-Brexit trading arrangements.
The US president is expected to meet the leaders of the province’s five political parties on Wednesday.
But experts have poured cold water on the idea Mr Biden can help break the impasse.
The US president is known for his pro-Irish feelings with some fearing his occasional anti-British sentiments might further alienate unionists.
When he was vice president, Mr Biden caused offence to Northern Ireland’s unionist community when he joked at a St Patrick’s Day event: “If you’re wearing orange you’re not welcome here.”
Members of Northern Ireland’s Protestant, unionist community associate themselves with the colour orange in celebration of William of Orange’s victory over Catholic forces at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
Ms Hanna said unionists will be looking for similar slights during Mr Biden’s visit this week.
She said: “I mean, I think from from day one, they characterize Biden’s Irish roots as meaning that he was hostile to Northern Ireland.
“You know, in Northern Ireland people go out of their way to be offended.
“They’ll be on high alert looking for something to be cross about in what he says.”
Ms Hanna added: ‘It’s part of the persona. [Mr Biden]’s clearly not mean spirited and it’s sort of a Dad joke. But it’s genuinely not helpful.”
A major security operation will be in place for Mr Biden’s visit, with more than 300 officers from the rest of the UK being drafted into Northern Ireland.
The PSNI has also warned of significant traffic disruption in Belfast during the presidential visit, with a number of roads in the city centre already closed.
After he leaves the city on Wednesday, Mr Biden will cross the border to attend engagements in Co Louth.
The president has traced his ancestral roots to the area and he will tour Carlingford Castle in the county before spending the night in Dublin.
He is then expected to visit Irish President Michael D Higgins on Thursday.
It has been announced that Dublin’s Phoenix Park will be closed for 24 hours from 5pm on Wednesday to facilitate the visit.
Mr Higgins’ official residence is within the park’s grounds.
The White House said Mr Biden will take part in a tree-planting ceremony and ringing of the Peace Bell at the president’s official residence, Aras an Uachtarain.
After that ceremony, he will meet again with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, whom Mr Biden recently hosted for St Patrick’s Day.
Mr Biden will address the Irish parliament and attend a banquet dinner at Dublin Castle on Thursday evening.
The president’s trip will conclude on Friday with a visit to Co. Mayo, where he has also connected with distant cousins.
He will tour the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock and visit the North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Centre’s family history research unit.
He will then make a public speech at St Muredach’s Cathedral in Ballina.
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