Joe Biden confirms Irish visit

Joe Biden confirms Irish visit

US vice president Joe Biden will travel to Ireland on a long-awaited State visit next month as part of his repeatedly stated aim to visit his ancestral home before his term in office ends, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Irish Examiner Political Reporter in Washington DC.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed the visit will take place during a speech beside the high-profile politician in Washington DC last night.

Speaking at the opening night of the 'Ireland 100' festival, during the first public engagement of his two-day 1916 commemoration trip to the US, Mr Kenny said Mr Biden will come to Ireland "in the coming weeks" to reconnect with his family roots.

It is widely expected the journey, which follows in the footsteps of previous visits by US presidents, will include time spent in rural Mayo, which is Mr Biden's ancestral home and the Taoiseach's home county.

"Tonight we have with us a man who is an eminent Irish-American and who in just a few weeks will be coming home to Ireland.

"Vice president, Joe Biden, you honour us with your presence tonight and we look forward to having you with us.

"You'll see that when we say céad míle fáilte, a hundred thousand welcomes, we aren't kidding," he joked during a speech at the US capital's Kennedy Center.

The visit, which will take place between June 21 and 25, is expected to see Mr Biden travel to a number of locations in Ireland alongside his family.

The 73-year-old has repeatedly said it is his intention to come to this country throughout his time in office, following in the footsteps of US president Barack Obama and former presidents the late John F Kennedy, Bill Clinton and George Bush junior.

The vice-president's mother's family has strong ties to Ballina in north Mayo, while White House security staff have previously given him the code name "Celtic" due to his roots.

While Mr Biden has made several short stop-overs in Ireland as part of visits to other parts of Europe, he has regularly promised Mr Kenny the duo would eventually enjoy a round of golf in Castlebar with each other.

Speaking at the 'Ireland 100' event last night, the US vice-president he is "proud to be a descendent" of Ireland and that the heritage "has shaped my entire life".

He said both nations "are divided by distance, but united by history" and said the country is "defined by your courage, redeemed by your loyalty".

Mr Kenny will continue his US visit on Wednesday with a tour of the US Congress library's records of the Easter Rising, before attending a specially organised tour of the heralded Newseum newspaper museum on how these events were reported at the time.

He will then travel to Capitol Hill to plant an Irish oak tree in honour of those who died - considered an extremely rare privilege for a foreign official - before attending a House of Representatives debate on the adoption of a resolution to remember the Irish rebellion.

Vice-president Joe Biden has repeatedly stressed his Irish links throughout his political career.

However, while the connection has been a major plus to the high-profile politician, it has at times landed him in some avoidable hot water.

* During last year's St Patrick's Day festivities, Mr Biden told reporters "anyone wearing orange is not allowed in". The joke, which was intended as a light-hearted nod to the differences which have divided Ireland's Unionist and Nationalist communities, provoked a short lived controversy on both sides of the Atlantic.

* Two months ago, during this year's St Patrick's Day events, Mr Biden again appeared to cause offence when none was intended. Noting the stalemate outcome of the Irish election, he said Enda Kenny was the "most popular guy in his country" but had now "lost", before attempting to cover up the remark by saying if he ran in the US the Fine Gael leader would win "80% of the vote".

* Early last year, Mr Biden also fell foul of misjudging his audience - a criticism that has been thrown at him throughout his career - by saying "I may be Irish but I'm not stupid". The comment was in reference to an attractive friend of US senator Lindsey Graham asking him to stop and pose for a picture with her.

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