Joe Biden has travelled to Northern Ireland today to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

The US President is expected to meet with Stormont’s main political parties as part of a visit he said would underscore his nation’s “commitment to preserving peace and encouraging prosperity” in Northern Ireland.

Mr Biden will also travel to the Republic of Ireland, where he will carry out a number of engagements during his four-day stay, including visiting County Louth and County Mayo, from where his ancestors hail. He has long been outspoken about his Irish heritage.

What is Joe Biden’s Irish heritage?

Mr Biden can trace his Irish roots back to two families – the Blewitts from County Mayo and the Finnegans from County Louth.

His great-great-grandfather Patrick Blewitt was born in Ballina, Mayo, in 1832. He left for the US in 1850, aged 18.

Patrick returned the following year to bring his parents and siblings across to the States, and they settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania – the town which famously became the setting for the US version of The Office, and also the place of Mr Biden’s birth in 1942.

Patrick worked as a mining instructor, and had a son, Edward F Blewitt, who was elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate in 1907.

He married a woman named Mary Ellen Stanton, and one of their four children, Geraldine, married another Irish immigrant, Ambrose Finnegan. Their daughter, Jean, was Mr Biden’s mother.

The Finnegans moved to the US in the late 1840s, settling in Seneca, New York. Owen Finnegan immigrated with his wife, Jean Boyle. Their son, James, married a woman called Catherine Roche. They had six children together, including Ambrose, whose marriage to Geraldine Blewitt eventually led to the birth of the President.

Mr Biden is distantly related to Irish rugby players Rob and Dave Kearney through the Finnegan side.

Why is Joe Biden in Northern Ireland?

Mr Biden tweeted ahead of his visit: “25 years ago, Northern Ireland’s leaders chose peace. The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement ended decades of violence and brought stability.

“I look forward to marking the anniversary in Belfast, underscoring the US commitment to preserving peace and encouraging prosperity.”

Rishi Sunak, will meet Mr Biden when Air Force One touches down in Northern Ireland on Tuesday. The two leaders will hold a bilateral meeting on Wednesday before the President gives an address at Ulster University’s new £350m Belfast campus.

The visit coincides with the anniversary of the signing of Good Friday Agreement, which largely brought an end to the Troubles, in Northern Ireland in 1998.

However, the Stormont power-sharing Assembly, which was established in the peace deal, is not currently operating due to a protest over post-Brexit trading arrangements by the DUP, the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland.

It is expected that Mr Biden will hold a meeting with Northern Ireland’s main political parties before the Ulster University talk.

A major security operation will be in place for Mr Biden’s visit, with more than 300 officers from the rest of the UK being drafted into Northern Ireland.

After he leaves the city on Wednesday, Mr Biden will cross the border to attend engagements in County Louth. The President can traced his ancestral roots to the area and he will tour King John’s Castle in the town of Carlingford, in Louth, before spending the night in Dublin. He is then expected to visit Irish President Michael D Higgins on Thursday.

The White House said Mr Biden would take part in a tree-planting ceremony and ringing of the Peace Bell at the president’s official residence, Áras an Uachtaráin.

Following that ceremony, he will meet once again with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who Mr Biden recently hosted for St Patrick’s Day.

The US President will address the Irish parliament and attend a banquet at Dublin Castle on Thursday evening. His trip will conclude with a visit to County Mayo, where he has also connected with distant cousins, on Friday.

He will tour the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock and visit North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Centre’s family history research unit. He will then make a public speech at St Muredach’s Cathedral in Ballina.

By admin