Joe Biden Opens Irish Hospice

Mayo Co Cllr. John Caulfield, Dara Calleary TD, Joe Biden, Eugene Murphy TD in Castlebar September 12 a Hospice sod turning. (Photo: Eugene Murphy / Twitter)

By Olivia O’Mahony, Editorial Assistant
October / November 2017

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited County Mayo in September to preside over the official sod-turning ceremony of a new €10 million 14-bed Mayo/Roscommon Hospice unit in Knockaphunta, Castlebar, where one of his Irish cousins, Laura Blewitt, is employed. Biden first pledged to support the project when he met his cousin in Washington, D.C. in January, and made good on his word by overseeing the beginning of the unit’s construction. It is Mayo’s first hospice care facility.

“He said he would like to help raise funds for Mayo/Roscommon Hospice,” Blewitt told Mayo News, after attending a surprise ceremony in Washington D.C. when Biden was given the Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, by President Obama.

Speaking at the Mayo groundbreaking, Biden said he was “honored” that the new hospice would be forever linked to his son Beau, who died last year after a two-year battle with cancer. He also spoke movingly about his own family experiences with hospice, recalling the car accident that claimed the life of his wife, Neilia, and their one-year-old daughter, Naomi, while his sons, Beau and Hunter, were left in critical condition, and sharing how his parents were both cared for by hospice services in the later years of their lives.

Biden still found room for levity, though. Remarking on the Blewitts’ emigration 160 years ago, he quipped, “I don’t know why my family left here in the first place – especially now.” ♦

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