US President Joe Biden will receive a far warmer welcome by lawmakers in Ireland on Thursday (Apr 13) during his visit to the country of his ancestral roots, after a frosty encounter north of the border.
Biden, who is only the second Catholic president in America’s history, headed south on Wednesday to observe a disembarkation point for some of his 19th-century Irish forebears, following a speech in UK-ruled Northern Ireland.
While visiting Carlingford Castle and braving a typical Irish drizzle, Biden exclaimed “It feels wonderful! Feels like I’m coming home”.
Earlier, during his one-night stop in Belfast, pro-UK unionists shadowed Biden with recriminations and accused him of betraying “anti-British” feeling, despite his attempts to bolster economic growth in the territory, 25 years after a US-brokered peace agreement.
Biden, who declares Ireland to be “part of my soul”, told an audience at Belfast’s Ulster University that he cared about peace for the whole of the divided island.
He urged the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to end its boycott of Northern Ireland’s Stormont legislature, advertising the promise in return of investment from “scores of major American corporations” if political stability returns.
In addressing the Irish parliament, known as the Oireachtas, in Dublin, Biden will follow in steps first walked by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who in June 1963 became the first sitting president to visit Ireland – five months before his assassination.
In his speech, Kennedy remarked that the parliament building – Leinster House – had once belonged to his ancestors the Fitzgeralds, the earls of Kildare. But, he joked, “I have not come here to claim it.”
Instead, he dwelt on “the many and the enduring links which have bound the Irish and the Americans since the earliest days”, when both were engaged in struggle against the British.
Unlike JFK, Joe Biden cannot boast of noble ancestors in his lineage, but some of his forebears fled famine under British rule and congregated in hardscrabble Scranton, Pennsylvania.
In his own speech Thursday, Biden will echo his predecessor in underscoring “the deep and enduring historical, cultural, political and economic ties between our countries”, according to senior White House adviser Amanda Sloat.