'Old habits of mistrust and sectarianism die hard' - Joe Biden calls on Irish people to 'keep the faith' in Brexit aftermath
US Vice President Joe Biden has called on Irish people to “keep the faith” in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.
He said he recognised that the result of the UK’s referendum “introduces some economic uncertainty” but stressed the importance of keeping the Peace Process in the North alive.
“I believe the people of Northern Ireland will not allow this to prevent them going forward,” he said, adding: “They’ve come so far.”
He warned that the 18 years since the peace process was “just a heartbeat”, adding: “Old habits of mistrust and sectarianism die hard. We’ve a lot more work to do. We can’t rest on the laurels of past breakthroughs.”
Speaking at a gala dinner for the Ireland Funds at Trinity College last night, Mr Biden said we must ensure that the children of both sides in Northern Ireland “grow up side by side, never knowing the nightmare of the Troubles”.
Earlier, as he received an honorary doctorate at Trinity, Mr Biden spoke of the turbulent times the world is facing and admitted that a different outcome from the UK referendum would have been preferred by the US.
But he moved to reassure the Irish people that the United States’ relationship with Ireland and the European Union “will remain the cornerstone of its global engagement”.
“I must say we had looked for a different outcome. We would have preferred a different outcome and I imagine many of you here felt the same way,” he said.
On the fourth day of Mr Biden’s trip to Ireland, he was soaking up the atmosphere at Trinity College, Dublin and quipped that if anyone found Harry Potter in the famous Long Room library, “please let my grandson know”.
And he unveiled, with a flourish, yet another well-connected Irish cousin.
The conferring of his doctorate was overseen by provost Patrick Prendergast and the university’s chancellor, former president Mary Robinson, who the US vice-president surprised by telling him that they were distant cousins by marriage.
He spoke of the turbulent times the world is facing, saying: “What bothers you most in this period is the sense of helplessness that’s often expressed when there’s so much reason to be optimistic.
“You’ve never had the potential to do so much good,” Mr Biden told those graduating yesterday.
Quoting WB Yeats, he said: “All has changed and changed utterly. A terrible beauty has been born.
“Those words are more applicable to the world you are graduating into than they even were in 1916,” Mr Biden said.
Later, the newly discovered cousins crossed paths again at a gala dinner to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Ireland Funds at Trinity College, when Mrs Robinson addressed guests including Elizabeth Frawley, chairperson of the American Ireland Fund, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley, Australian Ambassador to Ireland Ruth Adler, John Fitzpatrick and Loretta Brennan Glucksman.
Before Mr Biden’s arrival, Mrs Robinson conceded that the day had been “quite negative” for political and other issues, but that it was positive in its celebration of the diaspora.
The flautist James Galway made a special appearance at the event.
Mr Biden spent his afternoon at Dublin Castle, with a concert by The Chieftains (his second time hearing them perform on this visit), Mundy and the group Seo Linn.
He told rain-drenched guests there that the entire world faced enormous challenges, which, he added, provide “fertile terrain for reactionary politicians and demagogues.”