Friday 30 September 2016

Biden wowed on Irish heritage trail

An eye-opening trip, but it was the distant relatives that stole the show for the American VP, writes Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

Published 26/06/2016 | 02:30

Eye-opener: Historian Claire Tuffy shows Vice President Joe Biden and his family around Newgrange in County Meath. Photo: Arthur Carron
Eye-opener: Historian Claire Tuffy shows Vice President Joe Biden and his family around Newgrange in County Meath. Photo: Arthur Carron

If we're not out in a thousand years, come and get us, okay?" - US Vice President Joe Biden was so stunned by the longevity of Newgrange that his initial reaction was "wow".

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It was meant to be a regular holiday for the outgoing VP, but that was never going to happen. Forget the media entourage, it was the Secret Service that stole the show.

The outskirts of Slane didn't know what hit it. His family - in total, there were 10 of them, four of whom were children - were escorted by a spectacular, even scary cavalcade, including nine garda bikes, two garda jeeps, six US presidential jeeps, five cars, three buses and a chopper.

And it wasn't just the area around Newgrange that felt the effects: the M1 and any ensuing roundabout were brought to a standstill to allow the VP get his schedule back up to speed.

Usually when a US politician visits Ireland, it is with political gain and a further rise in the rankings back home in mind. However, there was a lot more to this visit. The Biden family were over to get to know their heritage before they emigrated to Scranton, a predominantly Irish city in the state of Pennsylvania.

Biden's mother, Jean, is of Finnegan descent - his granddaughter is named Finnegan Biden, and if she hadn't fully appreciated the value of that eight-letter word, she sure does now.

At their second port-of-call, it wasn't the Finnegans, but distant relatives, the Kearneys - including Irish rugby star, Dave - who offered the "cead mile failte", at Fitzpatrick's pub, just outside Dundalk.

This was the most anticipated part for Vice President Biden. However, it seems his relatives may have been even more eager for the meeting: they turned up to the pub at 10am, four hours before the VP arrived, and waited to be introduced to his family. One imagines it was worth the wait.

Biden is said to be five-eights Irish - and he certainly could have tapped into his clear popularity here (people stood at roundabouts taking photos) had he ran for Obama's vacant position this year.

Sunday Independent

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