(Dublin) Embarking on a sentimental journey in the footsteps of his ancestors in Ireland, Joe Biden addresses Parliament in Dublin on Thursday, 60 years after John Fitzgerlad Kennedy, the only other Catholic American president, also of Irish origin.
Arriving in Ireland on Wednesday after a whirlwind – and politically delicate – stint in the British province of Northern Ireland, Joe Biden tackled the most institutional part of his trip to this country on Thursday, which he says he carries in his ” soul “.
He was given a warm welcome, with crowds lining his motorcade’s route through Dublin and military honors as he arrived in bright sunshine at the presidential residence to meet Michael Higgins.
“I’m not leaving! the 80-year-old Democrat, who says he feels “at home” in Ireland, joked to reporters.
Joe Biden, relaxed and smiling, planted a shrub in the residence of the president, not far from two trees testifying to the passage of two of his predecessors with Irish roots.
It is Barack Obama, and especially John Fitzgerald Kennedy, whose trip to Ireland in 1963 was a huge event.
Like JFK – the first American president to do so – Joe Biden will address both houses of the Irish Parliament on Thursday.
He has already said, when being received by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, that the two countries share “the same values and the same concerns”.
The US President’s connection to Ireland goes far beyond diplomacy. His visit, echoing the one he made as vice-president in 2016, is a very personal matter.
Joe Biden comes to Ireland in the footsteps of his ancestors, who like so many others left famine-ravaged Ireland in the 19th century to seek a better life in the United States.
This attachment is also not devoid of political ulterior motives, for a president who plans to run again in 2024.
His childhood in a close-knit Irish clan helps polish an image of a president from a modest and hard-working background. What may glean votes from the 30 million Americans who claim Irish roots.
And Irish emigration allows Joe Biden to hammer out his favorite speech, about America’s promises and “possibilities”, about “faith” in the future and about the “dignity” he intends to restore.
His official trip includes two visits to two regions presented as the cradles of the Finnegans and the Blewitts, the president’s ancestors.
There was County Louth (northeast) on Wednesday, there will be Ballina in County Mayo (northwest) on Friday, where Joe Biden will make a speech.
The very first part of his trip, however, was less warm.
He went to Belfast on Wednesday to support the balance in force for twenty-five years in the British province, which today seems to be weakened.
Northern Ireland’s institutions, meant to enshrine cooperation between once-enemy parties, are currently stalled due to disagreements over the aftermath of Brexit.
The American president, who met with the main political leaders of Northern Ireland, called for an end to this paralysis.
But this Catholic democrat and so fiercely attached to his Irish heritage received a cold reception from the Unionists. Attached to belonging to the United Kingdom, they block any formation of a local government and have described it to some as “un-British”.
The White House claims to have had only “positive” feedback after this brief stay in Belfast.
The American president, however, caused a stir with one of these blunders of which he is customary.
Referring to a distant cousin rugby player, Rob Kearney, he said he had given a hard time to the “Black and Tans”, a particularly brutal British force which had fought the Irish separatists in the 1920s.
“For any rugby fan in Ireland, the chairman spoke very clearly about the All Blacks,” the New Zealand team, swept away his adviser Amanda Sloat.