'It feels like coming home': Biden concludes tour of the island of Ireland with Ballina speech

'It feels like coming home,' the US president said of his time in Ireland

The US president concluded his visit to the island of Ireland by delivering a speech at a cathedral in Co Mayo.

At a public speech in the town of Ballina in Co Mayo on Friday, Joe Biden said “everything between Ireland and America runs deep” as his trip came to an end.

Throughout his speech, he spoke of his fondness for the relationship between the US and Ireland – describing it as “united by history, heritage and hope”.

He thanked the thousands in the crowd for their “incredible generosity” for opening up their homes to Ukrainian refugees “fleeing Russia’s brutal violence”.

Once again speaking of his Irish ancestry, Mr Biden said millions of Americans claim to have Irish heritage – adding: “More would if they could.”

Opening his speech, Mr Biden said: “It feels like coming home”.

A young child waves Irish and US flags Credit: AP
St Muredach's Cathedral Credit: PA

The president referenced a visit he made earlier in the day to the Mayo Roscommon Hospice, where there is a plaque in memory of his son Beau who died of brain cancer in 2015. He said: “I can tell you how special it is that a piece of his legacy lives here among his ancestors. “Thinking about it I could hear my dad’s voice again. He’d always say ‘Joe remember family is the beginning, the middle and the end’. “The beginning, middle and end, that’s the Irish of it.”

Earlier at the Knock shrine, the US leader was brought to tears after an emotional meeting with Father Frank O’Grady, who performed the last rites sacrament for Beau.

He continued: “Everything between Ireland and America runs deep; our history, our heritage, our sorrows, our future, our friendship. But more than anything, hope is what beats in the hearts of all our people. “For centuries during times of darkness and despair, hope has kept us marching forward toward a better future, one of greater liberty, greater dignity and greater possibilities.”

Crowds in Ballina pictured before the speech Credit: PA

The president’s son Hunter Biden and sister Valerie Biden Owens sat in the front row of the VIP section to the side of the stage for the speech. During his 20-minute speech, Mr Biden spoke of his ancestor Edward Blewitt, whom he said worked in the old Ballina brickyard. The president said during one of his engagements in Co Mayo, he saw a record from 1828 that said Mr Blewitt was paid 21 pounds and 12 shillings to help supply 27,000 bricks for St Muredach’s Cathedral, which was nearby as he addressed the crowd. “As he laboured, I’m sure he would imagine that one day his family would worship here, that his children would be baptised here like his son Patrick was, and that future generations of his family would mark the milestones of their lives here in the sturdy walls,” he said. “But I doubt he ever imagined his great-great-great grandson would return 200 years later as president of the United States of America.”

US President Joe Biden arrives on stage Credit: PA

He also thanked Ballina for celebrating his election as president in 2020. “You decked out the town I’m told in red, white and blue with cars and crowds gathered in the market square singing the green and the red of Mayo,” he said. “It means the world to me, it meant the world to me and my entire family to be embraced as Mayo Joe, son of Ballina. “My mother, my grandmother – whose maiden name was Blewitt – would be smiling down on me right now.”

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