Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair has described Joe Biden’s visit to Northern Ireland as “significant” as the US President is due to arrive on Tuesday to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
The ex-Labour leader spoke of the importance of using “the American influence on the process with care and with sensitivity” adding “there’s a difference between influencing and pressurising and the one tends to be positive and the other can be negative”.
Sir Tony told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, it is significant. You’ve got to use the American influence on the process with care and with sensitivity.
“I obviously had a very close relationship with President Clinton outside of the peace process, but I found him immensely helpful.
“He would immediately understand strategically what was important and what wasn’t and the Americans can play an important part of this, but you’ve just got to be, you’ve got to insert them at the right moment and in the right place.”
“The Americans can play a real role but it’s something that you need to do carefully because there’s a difference between influencing and pressurising and the one tends to be positive and the other can be negative.”
He went on: “One thing I learned about the unionist is if you try and pressurise them to do something that they’re fundamentally in disagreement with, it’s usually futile pressure, even if it comes from the US, so you’ve got to use that influence carefully.”
The Good Friday Agreement negotiations he said were a “rollercoaster”, but characterised by an “overwhelming sense of desire to succeed”.
“There was this overwhelming sense of desire to succeed because had we failed, it would have been a very humiliating and public failure.”
He added: “We don’t have the executive up and running at the moment, we want that and the agreement should be reviewed over time.
“The only thing is, if you’re going to review it, whatever comes out of the review will only work if it brings the communities together.”
Mr Biden will also travel to the Republic of Ireland.