“Remember, Joey, the best drop of blood in you is Irish,” President Joe Biden said, quoting his grandfather.
Such fierce ethnic pride from “the most Irish of all American presidents,” as the Taoiseach describes him, was guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser, and Biden knew it.
Biden displayed an endless supply of that pride during a three-day visit that culminated in a Friday night speech in Ballina, County Mayo, where his paternal ancestors once lived. The speech was the last item on his schedule before he returned to Washington.
“Being here feels like coming home,” he told the crowd of 27,000, diving into his family background stretching back before the Irish famine of the mid-1800s.
The Irish “always believe in a better tomorrow,” he said. “Our strength is something that overcomes everyday hardships.”
Biden’s love of his Irish roots and, in turn, the affection shown in the rapturous applause of Irish lawmakers listening to his speech to parliament and in the cheering crowds lined up waiting for his motorcade in blustery weather, could also reach another audience — American voters.
“Ireland is one of the few countries where an American president can guarantee an uncritical welcome,” said Brendan O’Leary, the Lauder professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania.
This visit, designed to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, is especially important. The 1998 peace deal helped end 30 years of bloody conflict over whether Northern Ireland should unify with Ireland or remain part of the United Kingdom.
By showing the U.S. is playing a constructive role in sustaining peace, Biden is sending an important message to Americans, in contrast to less successful foreign policy outcomes such as the chaotic U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, O’Leary told VOA.
Biden’s Republican Party rivals had a different view. On Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News, former President Donald Trump slammed Biden’s tour of his ancestral homeland.
“The world is exploding around us. You could end up in a third world war and this guy is going to be in Ireland!” he said Tuesday night.
Foreign policy credits aside, O’Leary said Biden clearly represents his Irish American experience as typical of the American middle-class experience.”I think that facilitates his ‘Ordinary Joe’ campaigning,” he added. (VOA)