Dublin, Nov 7 (AFP/APP): Ireland on Saturday hailed Democrat Joe Biden as “president-elect” of the United States and a staunch friend of his ancestral homeland who would support peace in Northern Ireland, as Britain leaves the EU.
Prime minister Micheal Martin was among the very first foreign leaders to react and relatives of the Irish-American Biden also rejoiced, after US networks declared him the winner of the bitter White House race over President Donald Trump.
“Ireland takes pride in Joe Biden’s election, just as we are proud of all the generations of Irish women and Irish men and their ancestors whose toil and genius have enriched the diversity that powers America,” Martin said in a statement. “This is a particularly special day for the people of County Louth and of County Mayo who count president-elect Biden among their own,” he said, pledging to welcome Biden back to Ireland when circumstances allow. “Joe Biden has always been a stalwart friend and supporter of Ireland, including of the prosperity, stability and opportunity made possible by the Good Friday Agreement (for Northern Ireland), to which he has pledged his ongoing steadfast support.”
Biden’s family roots run deep in Ireland, with a heritage described as “roughly five-eighths Irish” by genealogist Megan Smolenyak. She traces his lineage to the county of Louth and the town of Ballina. His great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt left Ballina for New York in 1851 amidst the diaspora fleeing Ireland’s famines and grinding poverty of the period.
“It’s absolutely amazing. We’re beyond excited by it,” Biden’s third cousin Laurita Blewitt, 37, told AFP by phone from Ballina on Ireland’s west coast, where a giant mural lauds the former vice president.
Ireland ‘on my soul’
“I suppose we had full confidence the last couple of days that it was going to come through,” she said. “I just spoke to them (other relatives) there and they’re obviously so excited, but it was lovely to just be in touch with the family and be part of the celebrations from afar.”
Politically, Ireland is counting on Biden’s support as it nervously watches for Britain’s post-Brexit plans at the end of the year, once a transition period expires and London is formally free of European Union rules. Britain has introduced legislation that unilaterally rewrites its EU divorce treaty, with potential implications for relations between Ireland and the restive UK territory of Northern Ireland. At the same time, London has been trying to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal with the US administration.
In September, Biden tweeted that Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace agreement must not become a “casualty of Brexit”. “Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border,” he said. “Period.” The 77-year-old politician has visited Ireland twice — first in 2016 when large crowds turned out to see then president Barack Obama’s deputy. In 2017 he came back and turned the first sod for a new hospice — a cause near to his heart after his son Beau’s death from cancer two years earlier. Biden wrote that when he dies, “northeast Pennsylvania will be written on my heart”. “But Ireland will be written on my soul.”
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