Joe Biden hails US-Irish relationship in historic address and calls for UK to work closer with Ireland

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  • April 13, 2023
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Joe Biden hails US-Irish relationship in historic address and calls for UK to work closer with Ireland thumbnail

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oe Biden has declared he is home as he made a historic address to a packed Irish Parliament where he spoke of the strength of the Irish-US relationship and promised a future of unlimited shared possibilities.

The US president was welcomed with sustained, rapturous applause as he entered the chamber in Dublin’s Leinster House to deliver a speech on Thursday.

Asking to be forgiven for his attempt at speaking the Irish language, he said “Ta me sa bhaile” (I am home).

Mr Biden is the fourth US president to address the Irish Parliament after John F Kennedy in 1963, Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Bill Clinton in 1995.

He said it was “one of the great honours of my career, to be here today”.

In his address Mr Biden praised the “enduring” strength of the Irish-US relationship as he promised “a future poised for unlimited shared possibilities”.

The speech came ahead of the final day of Mr Biden’s trip, on Friday hewill head to the hometown of his great-great-grandfather Patrick Blewitt, in Ballina in Mayo, where he will give a public address outside St Muredach’s Cathedral before returning to the US.

Big names in Irish politics and society congregated for the speech, as well as some members of the US Congress, a senator and Mr Biden’s sister Valerie and son Hunter.

Former Irish president Mary McAleese and ex-taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny were among those present, as was former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Mr Biden spoke of the “precious” peace that must be “nurtured” in Northern Ireland as he suggested the UK should be working more closely with the Republic of Ireland to support the region.

I think that the United Kingdom should be working closer with Ireland in this endeavour

Reflecting on discussions with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, he spoke of “how Ireland and the United States can work together with the United Kingdom and the European Union to support the people of Northern Ireland”.

Mr Biden said: “I think that the United Kingdom should be working closer with Ireland in this endeavour. Political violence must never be allowed again to take hold on this island.”

Representing Northern Ireland politicians were SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Alliance chief Naomi Long and Sinn Fein’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill.

Despite being invited, no unionist politicians attended.

The passionate address, which lasted around 30 minutes, began with Mr Biden looking upwards and saying:  “Well mom, you said it would happen.”

He also referenced his son Beau, who died aged 46 in 2015 after suffering from brain cancer, with Mr Biden saying: “As a matter of fact he should be the one standing here giving this speech to you.”

The speech contained numerous references to the president’s family history and how his story is like that of so many other Irish Americans who left the island in search of a new life.

He told the crowd: “These stories are the very heart of what binds Ireland and America together. They speak to a history defined by our dreams, they speak to a present written by our shared responsibilities, and they speak to a future poised for unlimited shared possibilities.

“Today I’d like to reflect on the enduring strength of the connections between Ireland and the United States, a partnership for the ages.”

TDs and senators rose to their feet for a standing ovation as Mr Biden finished his speech.

Other special guests included Marie Heaney, widow of one of Mr Biden’s favourite poets Seamus Heaney.

The poet, who would have turned 84 on Thursday, was likely to be “looking down on us with his glasses nestled between his fingers and a hint of a smile on his face”, Dail speaker Sean O Fearghail said as he addressed those gathered before Mr Biden spoke.

Mr Biden then used the often-quoted “hope and history rhyme” line from Heaney’s The Cure At Troy.

The youngest person in attendance for the speech was baby Margot, daughter of Labour senator Rebecca Moynihan.

Mr Biden jokingly apologised to the infant for putting her through a policy speech, saying it is “as bad as what my children have been put through”.