US president pays tribute to Roscommon hospice that honoured his late son

Joe Biden Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

US president Joe Biden has paid tribute to a new Irish palliative care centre that had honoured his late son Beau.

Mr Biden turned the sod on the centre during a visit to Ireland in 2017, accompanied by his cousin Laurita Blewitt, who was a fundraising manager for the Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation.

The 6.3 million euro eight-bed palliative care unit in Roscommon was officially opened on Friday by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

In a video message to mark the occasion, Mr Biden thanked the organisation for honouring his son Beau, who died in 2017 after suffering from cancer.

He said: “Congratulations on today’s opening. When my cousin Laurita invited me to turn the sod in September of 2017 it was a deeply moving experience.

“I got to meet so many of you, doctors, nurses, counsellors and volunteers. In each of you I saw the values of your community.

“Love, selflessness, compassion – that’s what hospice represents. A place where dignity, empathy and support are shown to all.

“I know this special place will bring comfort to the proud people of Co Mayo and Roscommon.”

He added: “For me, it will always have a special place in my heart. As many of you know, when my family travelled to Ireland in 2016 we felt so much love and joy.

“It was also bittersweet, since it was a trip that I had hoped to share with our son Beau, to come here together and to touch the soil of our Irish roots and our family’s history and heritage.

“The fact that you have etched Beau’s name in memory into the tapestry of this hospice is something my family and I, and his children in particular, will never, ever forget.”

Mr Biden said he was “anxious to visit” the centre.

The new unit has been built on the Athlone Road in Roscommon, on a site bought by the Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation.

It was developed and paid for by a 15.5 million euro fundraising drive, which also delivered the Mayo Hospice in Castlebar two years ago.

Mr Donnelly said: “I am delighted to be here today to officially open the Roscommon Palliative Care Support Unit.

“This building and the people it will serve is a wonderful testament to the local community’s generosity and goodwill.

“My department and I are strongly committed to progressing palliative care services across Ireland.

“We want to ensure equitable access to palliative care services in every region of the country, which will meet the palliative care needs of all who require it as our population grows and ages into the future.

“It is days like today when we get to understand the real value of comprehensive family and person-centred palliative care.”

Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation was founded in 1993 to provide palliative care services and has helped more than 18,000 patients and their families.

Chairman Mike Smith said: “I’m thrilled that Minister Donnelly is here today to launch Roscommon Hospice.

“The dedication that the local community has shown over the last 28 years to get both Roscommon Hospice and the Mayo Hospice up and running is just remarkable.

“These services are so badly needed in this community and to be here today and hear the stories of how our services have serviced families in both Mayo and Roscommon really makes it all worthwhile.”