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Sunday 4 December 2016

'Unfortunately, Beau didn't make it' - Emotional trip to Ireland for Joe Biden as he remembers son (46) who died last year

Published 22/06/2016 | 02:30

US Vice President Joe Biden and Enda Kenny in the Taoiseach’s office. Maxwell Photography
US Vice President Joe Biden and Enda Kenny in the Taoiseach’s office. Maxwell Photography

He has travelled to more than two dozen countries in his role as Vice President of the United States - but he's never been 'home' with the family.

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Joe Biden became emotional and had to pause to collect himself as he sat in Enda's office and thought of his son Beau (46), who died last year of brain cancer and "didn't make it."

Biden meets Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan at Dublin Airport after his arrival with his family for a visit to Ireland. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
Biden meets Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan at Dublin Airport after his arrival with his family for a visit to Ireland. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

The visit was a heartfelt one and the Vice President seized Taoiseach Enda Kenny by the scruff of the neck with affection as they met on the steps.

Traffic from the Rihanna concert around the Port Tunnel was said to be behind the delay of his cavalcade of 10 black vehicles. His relief at finally arriving was apparent and he was glad to sit in peace in Enda's office, surrounded by art works and gifts. Enda pointed out a bronze of the Children of Lir, telling him the story.

When they finally got going, the two spoke at length and with warmth.

The Taoiseach spoke of the Vice President's bravery and the courage of his convictions in speaking out against the shooting in Orlando, describing him as a "wonderful family man and a outstanding Irish senator."

Mr Biden recalled how six years ago, he said he was going to visit Ireland when he first met the Taoiseach over a St Patrick's Day Breakfast. He joked that he had told Enda to get US President Barack Obama's blessing for the trip by saying: "You have to tell the President you need me in Ireland.".

"I promised my son that we'd make a family trip here," Mr Biden recalled amid deep emotion. "Unfortunately, Beau," he paused. "He didn't make it."

He told of growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania and of learning Irish values like "courage" around the kitchen table. He went into raptures about the game of hurling when Enda presented him with the gift of a hurl and a sliotar, telling him: "It's not a weapon of self-destruction."

He wished they had it in America, Mr Biden enthused, saying: "That's a dangerous game."

On this trip with him are his daughter, Ashley, together with his sister, Valerie, his brother, Jimmy and five grandchildren - amongst them Beau's two children.

Tomorrow, he will stop off at Arás an Uachtaráin before heading to his ancestral heartland of Co Mayo.

His trip will involve a mix of official meetings, public speaking engagements and family events when Mr Biden will trace his ancestral roots in Co Mayo and Co Louth, from where his great-great-great grandfather Edward Blewitt and great-great grandfather Owen Finnegan, emigrated during the Great Famine.

The White House said that Mr Biden and Mr Kenny will "be making stops in several towns in County Mayo and visiting points of significances to the Vice President and the Taoiseach."

He will spend the night in Mayo before the pair hit the golf course tomorrow morning.

Joe Biden - with a handicap in single figures - is almost certain to win.

Enda - with a respectable handicap of 13 - will at least enjoy himself.

On Friday, he will make a speech at Trinity College and tour the university's famous library.

Later, he will deliver the keynote address of his trip, speaking on "the Irish-American experience, the shared heritage of the two nations, and the values of tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness" at an event in Dublin Castle.

On that evening, he will deliver remarks at the 40th anniversary gala of the American Ireland Fund, the philanthropic organisation, in Trinity College.

His trip continues into Saturday, when he will visit the Newgrange Stone Age Passage Tomb in Co Meath, travelling on to Co Louth, where he will tour the Kilwirra church and cemetery near Carlingford. He will return to Dublin that night.

On Sunday, the final day of his visit, Mr Biden will be a guest at a lunch at Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park, hosted by Enda, before he departs for Washington.

Biden grew up in Scranton, PA, and he is believed to be "five-eighths Irish", with the connection particularly strong on his mother's side.

Irish Independent

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