(Carlingford) ‘Like coming home’: Joe Biden embarked on a sentimental quest for his family roots in Ireland on Wednesday, after a brief, and politically far more delicate stint in Northern Ireland.

” That’s wonderful. It’s like coming home,” the US president said while visiting Carlingford Castle in the northeast of the Republic of Ireland in the pouring rain.

After celebrating in Belfast the 25th anniversary of the Northern Ireland peace agreement, and pleading for a restart of the crippled institutions of the British province, the American president has started the part of his trip that is most important to him. heart.

As he had already done as vice president in 2016, the 80-year-old Democrat has set his sights on one of his family’s cradles, in County Louth.

He therefore explored this castle of Carlingford which was, according to the White House, the last monument contemplated in 1849 by his maternal great-great-grandfather Owen Finnegan, from the boat which took him to America and the hope for a better life.

Ireland has hosted many presidents since John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963, but none who claim more of themselves than Joe Biden, otherwise the only Catholic to have conquered the White House since “JFK”.

A local musical ensemble even dedicated an original composition to him, “The Return of Biden.”

This contrasts with the political climate in the United States, where Joe Biden is an unpopular president, facing gaping divisions.

This also contrasts with the climate found by the Democrat that morning in Belfast.

He made a quick stop there to celebrate the peace agreements signed on April 10, 1998 after three decades of murderous “Troubles” between Unionists loyal to London, mainly Protestants, and Republicans, mainly Catholics, supporters of an attachment to the Republic of Ireland.

But the commemoration comes up against a much more difficult political reality. The local institutions created 25 years ago, in which the two long-fighting communities share power, are indeed stalled due to the consequences of Brexit.

“The lesson of the ‘Good Friday’ agreements is that it’s when things seem most fragile […] that there is the greatest need for hope and effort,” said Joe Biden, extolling the potential economic situation in Northern Ireland, a struggling province in which Washington promises to invest.

“I hope the (local) assembly and government will be restored soon,” he said, being careful to emphasize that the final decision rests with local political leaders.

Joe Biden had previously met with the leaders of the five main political parties in Northern Ireland.

In particular the DUP, the unionist party which for more than a year has refused to participate in the Northern Irish institutions. And who distrusts this American president who says he carries Ireland in his “soul”.

Joe Biden also saw, briefly, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who said the bilateral relationship was “very good”.

This, even if Joe Biden’s quick visit to the United Kingdom, and the very brief interview with the head of the British government, may have given, seen from London, an impression of minimum service.

Especially in contrast to his two and a half day visit to neighboring Ireland, a real family pilgrimage for the 80-year-old Democrat, who came accompanied by his sister Valerie and his son Hunter.

He will make an institutional stopover in Dublin on Thursday, then another personal visit on Friday in the west of the country.

Beyond his real attachment to Irish soil, Joe Biden also has a political card to play.

The president, who plans to run again in 2024, knows that about one in 10 Americans claim Irish roots, and that counts, electorally speaking, in several regions.