Joe Biden reiterated his hopes for the return of powersharing in Northern Ireland as he rang the symbolic Peace Bell in the grounds of the Irish president’s official residence in Dublin.
The US president, who will address the Irish parliament later on Thursday as part of a day filled with ceremonies and formal honours, was greeted at Aras an Uachtarain by Michael D Higgins as he continued his four-day visit to the island of Ireland.
Mr Biden, who stopped to speak to reporters after ringing the bell four times, said: “I hope that the government begins to function as it used to in terms of functioning as a representative body in the north.
“I think that’s necessary and that’s for you all to decide, not for me to decide.”
The US president, who visited Belfast on Wednesday as part of a trip to mark the 25th anniversary of the peace accord, referenced former US senator George Mitchell, who chaired the negotiations which led to the agreement.
“I’m very proud of my colleague George Mitchell. He did a fine job. He said 300 days of failure, one day of success. We have got to build on that one day.”
Mr Biden is expected to later set out a “shared vision” for the future of US-Irish relations when he addresses both Houses of the Oireachtas, with a meeting with Irish premier Leo Varadkar set to take place beforehand at Farmleigh House in Phoenix Park.
Mr Biden, who was joined by an official delegation that included US secretary of state Antony Blinken, was met with cheers from onlookers as his motorcade entered the park for his meeting with the Irish president.
It was Mr Biden’s third visit to the residence, but his first as president.
“It’s a pleasure to be back,” Mr Biden told Mr Higgins.
After signing the visitors’ book in the historic State Reception Room, Mr Biden told the waiting media that he had referenced an Irish proverb: “Your feet will bring you where your heart is.”
A military band played the American national anthem as Mr Biden stood outside Aras an Uachtarain with his right hand on his heart.
After listening to the Irish national anthem, the president inspected a guard of honour before being introduced to Irish dignitaries including Irish Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sean Clancy and head of the Irish police, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
But Mr Biden was also peppered with questions by reporters as he stood in the grounds of the Irish president’s residence, including on a high-profile national security leak and his feelings on being back in Ireland.
The world leader said it “feels great” to be home, adding: “I know it sounds silly.”
At Farmleigh later, the president will be invited to watch a sports demonstration by young Gaelic games players.
Mr Biden will be accompanied to the Irish parliament by Marie Heaney, the widow of his favourite poet, Seamus Heaney.
Mr Biden will attend a banquet in his honour at Dublin Castle hosted by Taoiseach Mr Varadkar in the evening.
His first full day of engagements on Wednesday began in Northern Ireland, where he delivered a keynote address in Belfast.
In his speech at Ulster University, Mr Biden expressed the hope of a return to powersharing at Stormont, saying a stable devolved government could deliver an economic windfall for the region.