US President Joe Biden to address Irish Parliament as visit continues

He will then attend a banquet in his honour at Dublin Castle hosted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday evening.

David Young
Thursday 13 April 2023 10:05 BST
US President Joe Biden in Dundalk (Niall Carson/PA)
US President Joe Biden in Dundalk (Niall Carson/PA) (PA Wire)

Joe Biden’s visit to the island of Ireland continues on Thursday, with the US president to address the Irish Parliament as part of a series of engagements.

Mr Biden will also visit President of Ireland Michael D Higgins at his official residence in Phoenix Park, and have a meeting with Irish premier Leo Varadkar at nearby Farmleigh House.

At Farmleigh, the president will be invited to watch a sports demonstration by young Gaelic games players.

Mr Biden will be accompanied to the Irish Parliament by Marie Heaney, the widow of his favourite poet, Seamus Heaney.

Nine members of the US Congress, one senator as well as Mr Biden’s sister Valerie and son Hunter will attend the event, as well as former Irish president Mary McAleese, two former taoisigh, Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny, Northern Ireland political leaders and Larysa Gerasko, ambassador of Ukraine to Ireland.

Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail told RTE Radio’s Morning Ireland programme: “She (Mrs Heaney) was a special invitation from the president, he was most anxious that she would be present as part of his delegation because we know he is absolutely besotted by the work of Seamus Heaney, and has quoted him extensively over the years, and we would expect to hear him quoted on a number of occasions today.

“Unfortunately, the schedule for the president is extremely tight so it involves his arrival, his greeting those on the receiving line, his address and his immediate departure.”

Mr Biden, who is on a four-day trip to the island, will attend a banquet in his honour at Dublin Castle hosted by Taoiseach Mr Varadkar in the evening.

His first full day of engagements on Wednesday began in Northern Ireland, where he delivered a keynote address in Belfast.

In his speech to Ulster University, Mr Biden expressed the hope of a return to powersharing at Stormont, saying a stable devolved government could deliver an economic windfall for the region.

His visit north of the border came as the region marks the 25th anniversary of the landmark Good Friday peace accord that created Stormont’s institutions.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald praised the US President’s speech, but told RTE Radio 1: “The comments were balanced, but I don’t think you could miss, either, the very clear statement that the institutional apparatus needs to be back up and running.”

If she were taoiseach, she said, she would speak to Mr Biden about the “next chapter for Ireland”.

“I think it’s important that we talk to international partners, particularly the United States, about that. The prospect of the constitutional question, referendums, orderly planning for the future of our island.”

After his address in Belfast, Mr Biden travelled to Dublin and from there to Co Louth, where he can trace some of his Irish ancestors.

People lined the streets in Carlingford and Dundalk to cheer and wave US flags as Mr Biden arrived.

In a speech at a pub in Dundalk on Wednesday he described how he felt as though he had come home.

His remarks also included an apparent gaffe when he appeared to confuse the All Blacks rugby team with the Black and Tans, a contentious police unit from Ireland’s War of Independence era.

Mr Biden was speaking at the Windsor Bar in Dundalk, when he referred to the shamrock tie that he was wearing.

The US president was thanking relative and former Irish rugby player Rob Kearney for the gift of the Irish team tie, after a victory against the New Zealand rugby team at Soldier Field in Chicago in 2016.

Mr Biden appeared to mix up the nickname of the New Zealand team, the All Blacks, with the Black and Tans.

The Black and Tans is a name for additional part-time officers recruited to bolster Royal Irish Constabulary numbers in Ireland during the War of Independence, many of whom gained a violent reputation.

He said: “See this tie I have, this shamrock tie?

“It was given to me by one of these guys right here, who’s a hell of a rugby player who beat the hell out of the Black and Tans.”

Correcting himself after grimacing, Mr Biden continued: “Ah god. But, but it was when you were at Soldier Field, wasn’t it? Chicago.

“After it was all over he gave my brother, allegedly for me – but if it wasn’t I still took it – I still got the tie. I wore it with great pride.”

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