Biden Family Visits Ireland

By Olivia O’Mahony, Editorial Assistant
August / September 2016

Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Ireland in June for a six-day trip through counties Dublin, Meath, Louth, and Mayo. Arriving with his brother, sister, daughter and five grandchildren, Biden was formally welcomed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Government Buildings in Dublin.

Though Biden had visited Ireland privately in the past, Kenny told RTÉ News, this was his first trip as vice president. Biden had originally promised to make the trip with his son Beau, who died of brain cancer last year at the age of 46. In a keynote address at Dublin Castle, Biden said that despite Beau’s absence, “we decided we would bring the whole family.”

Biden, who grew up in Scranton, PA and whose Irish ancestry genealogist Megan Smolenyak traced for Irish America in 2013, spoke of his family’s pride in their Irish heritage. He also emphasized the importance of tolerance and inclusiveness for immigrants whose experiences mirror those of the Irish in America during the 19th century. He said his mother often reinforced a “thoroughly Irish sentiment” in him when she said, “Joey, no one is better than you, and every other person is equal to you and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”

After his speech, Biden was presented with the gifts of a hurley and sliotar. He expressed his remorse that hurling wasn’t more commonly played in the United States: “I played American football and American baseball in high school and college, but this… this is a dangerous game.”

He traveled with the Taoiseach to Knockmore, Co. Mayo, the town from which his paternal great-great grandfather emigrated, where they played a round of golf together. He then moved on to the Cooley Peninsula in Co. Louth, the birthplace of his maternal great-great grandfather, who left for America in 1850. ♦

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