Biden to conclude Ireland trip with visit to ancestors’ home town

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Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he hopes US President Joe Biden will receive an “almighty welcome” when he arrives in Co Mayo for the end of his four-day trip to the island of Ireland.

Mr Biden will travel to the west of Ireland to make a public address at a cathedral in Ballina, Co Mayo on Friday evening, the town where some of his ancestors hail from.

Prior to that, he will tour the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock, also in Co Mayo.

Knock shrine is a Catholic pilgrimage site that has been visited by popes, most recently by Pope Francis in 2018.

Speaking to RTE’s Morning Ireland, Mr Kenny said the trip was the longest presidential visit to the island of Ireland ever and brought “endless opportunity”.

“Of all the American presidents that I’ve seen and met, he has been the most active Irishness of them all.

“A man deeply proud of his faith, deeply proud of his heritage, and has paid tribute to that during his visit here.

“And I hope that as a Mayo man myself, that by the time he gets to the Moy river and St Muredach’s Cathedral in Ballina this evening, that they will give him one almighty welcome.”

Tanaiste Micheal Martin said it had been a “very special week” for Ireland.

Mr Martin told the same programme: “It has been a very special week insofar as it captures that special relationship with this president and the American people in terms of a shared past, and in many ways it’s a tribute to the legacy of that past given his own personal family story of emigration.

“But it is also a tribute to rich possibility of the future which I think he did focus on very significantly.

“In addition to that it is about shared values, it is about faith in the rules-based international order.”

On Wednesday, the president visited Co Louth, to where some of his family have been traced, and the visit to Co Mayo tracks the other side of his family tree.

It is also believed Mr Biden will make a private visit to the Mayo Roscommon Hospice in Castlebar that is dedicated to his son Beau who died of brain cancer in 2015.

The visit will conclude in the town of Ballina where Mr Biden will make a speech at St Muredach’s Cathedral.

Mr Biden’s great-great-great grandfather Edward Blewitt sold 27,000 bricks to the cathedral in 1827, which helped buy tickets for himself and his family to sail to America decades later in 1851.

The Mayo visits conclude the president’s four-day trip to the island of Ireland.

“This is one of the great honours of my career, to be here today, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart,” he said.

In a dinner at Dublin Castle in his honour, the president received a standing ovation as he finished a speech in which he reflected on his family roots and told the audience: “No barrier is too thick or too strong for Ireland.”

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