VP Joe Biden quotes Seamus Heaney as he accepts Medal of Freedom

Credit: PA

US Vice President Joe Biden has used the words of Seamus Heaney in his speech as he received a surprise Presidential Medal of Honour.

Biden has frequently spoken with pride about his Irish heritage and at the ceremony in Washington DC, both he and Barack Obama borrowed lines from Irish poets, in the case of the President, W B Yeats.

Paying tribute to the outgoing POTUS, Biden said, "Seamus Heaney in one of his poems said - when you can find someone who says it better, use it – he said, you carried your own burden and very soon, your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared".

The quotation of 'From the Republic of Conscience' was not the first time Joe Biden has demonstrated a love for Irish wordsmiths.

He has earlier talked about how his uncle imbued him with a love of Yeats.

"I used to stutter so badly and my uncle, who was a well educated man and lived with us as a bachelor had two volumes of Yeats on the bureau.

“At night in the bedroom, my uncle and I would put on this little light and stand in front of the mirror and read Yeats, because we have to learn not to contort my face and I would practice and practice not to contort my face, but to breath and to get it down," he said.

He also spoke of his admiration for Irish 'poet' Bono, from U2, as well as describing Heaney as his favourite contemporary poet.

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President Obama had recently bestowed medal of freedom upon some very famous recipients, including Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and Bruce Springsteen.

The vice president also became only the fourth person to receive the honour with distinction. The other three being Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.