So how Irish IS ‘son of Ireland’ Joe Biden? US President traces his roots back to County Louth and County Mayo and has often struggled to hide his ‘anti-British’ stance with risky jokes about those wearing orange and an ’embarrassment’ at his English dad
- Joe Biden was born in Scranton but traces his roots to Co. Louth and Co. Mayo
Joe Biden has been hailed as ‘unmistakably a son of Ireland’ but the US President’s boasting of his Irish heritage has often been accompanied by ‘anti-British’ slights.
The 80-year-old was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania yet traces his roots back to County Louth and County Mayo in the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Biden will visit both on his tour of the country this week, which will follow his swift trip to Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
His connections to Ireland come mainly on his mother’s side with his great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt having grown up in Ballina, Co. Mayo.
Blewitt emigrated to Scranton after the Irish potato famine of the 1840s.
Another of the US President’s great-great-grandfathers, Owen Finnegan, was a shoemaker from Co. Louth who emigrated to America in 1849.
His family, including Mr Biden’s great-grandfather James Finnegan, followed him in 1850.
Joe Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania yet traces his roots back to County Louth and County Mayo in the Republic of Ireland
The US President’s boasting of his Irish heritage has often been accompanied by ‘anti-British’ slights
The US President has previously revealed how his English father, Joseph Biden Snr., had the ‘saving grace’ of also having Irish heritage.
Mr Biden said last year: ‘He had the saving grace, on his mother’s side, of having a Hanafee from Galway.
‘That’s the only thing that saved him. And you all think I’m kidding. I’m not.’
It was not the first time that Mr Biden has hinted at a familial embarrassment at his father’s English heritage.
He previously recalled his aunt telling him when he was young: ‘Your father’s not a bad man. He’s just English.’
Mr Biden has, in the past, also spoken of a discomfort at Biden being an English surname and revealed ‘my grandfather and my mother were never crazy about it being English’.
Last year, it emerged that Mr Biden had once revealed his mother Jean so disliked England that she chose to sleep on the floor rather than in a bed in which the Queen had previously slept.
British screenwriter Georgia Pritchett claimed the US President made the revelation when they met in the White House during his period as vice-president.
She wrote in her autobiography how Mr Biden had recalled his mother visiting the UK and spending a night in a hotel where, Jean was told, the Queen had once stayed.
‘She was so appalled that she slept on the floor all night, rather than risk sleeping on a bed that the Queen had slept on,’ Pritchett wrote.
During his long political career, the US President has made a series of risky jokes at times when he has been proudly displaying his Irish heritage.
In a 2012 meeting with then prime minister David Cameron, while he was vice-president, Mr Biden jokingly offered a message to Amrbose Finnegan, his grandfather, that ‘things have changed’ as he sat down with a British leader.
In 2015, Mr Biden was fiercely criticised after he quipped while welcoming then Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny to his home: ‘Anyone wearing orange is not welcome in.’
Northern Ireland’s primarily Protestant unionist community associate themselves with the colour in celebration of William of Orange’s victory over Catholic forces at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
During an event at the White House last month to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, Mr Biden was described by current Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as ‘unmistakably a son of Ireland’
When he was president-elect after winning the US election in 2020, Mr Biden turned down a chance to speak with a BBC reporter, telling them: ‘The BBC? I’m Irish.’
During an event at the White House last month to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, Mr Biden was described by current Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as ‘unmistakably a son of Ireland’.
He said: ‘Every American President is a little bit Irish on St Patrick’s Day – but some are more Irish than others.
‘I think it’s fair to say that today we’re celebrating our national day with a President who is unmistakably a son of Ireland.’
Mr Biden used the event to quote a poem written by his great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt.
The US President told the audience of his ancestor: ‘He had an engineering degree from Lafayette College and the heart of an Irish poet.
‘In 1919, in one of the over 100 poems that I found in my – when my mom passed away, in her treasures, he wrote about “his Ireland”.
‘In one stanza, he wrote the following: “From the fairest land, except my own, Neath sun, star, and moon, the citadel of Liberty, My mother’s land, aroon.”‘
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