US Vice-President Joe Biden to visit Ireland next month to trace his roots
US Vice-President Joe Biden has said being Irish has "shaped" his entire life.
It was confirmed last night that Mr Biden is to travel to Ireland next month for a final holiday before he leaves the White House.
He attended the opening night of 1916 Rising celebrations in Washington's Kennedy Centre, telling the audience: "I am proud to be descended from Irish immigrants, from county Mayo and county Louth. Being Irish has shaped my entire life."
The event was also attended by several members of the Kennedy family, the US Chief Justice John Roberts, Senator George Mitchell and Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who Mr Biden described as "a man I have come to consider a really good friend".
The vice-president and Mr Kenny both addressed a packed auditorium before a show entitled 'Ireland 100' which was directed by actress Fiona Shaw.
Mr Biden said: "Tonight we celebrate our shared history, in the expression found in the arts and performance. In cascading verse of Irish poets, playwrights and novelists, we see the spirits that were within the tenacious immigrants that came to these shores.
"Throughout the history of both of our great nations it is clear the Irish heart and imagination does not have any limits whatsoever.
"So tonight in celebrating Ireland’s contribution to the arts we celebrate everything that Ireland has become, everything she will become and everything that she has always been."
He added: "My mother Jean Finnegan said it best. She used t say it to all her children and anybody who would listen. 'You are defined by courage and you are redeemed by your worrying.
"For me, Taoiseach, that's the Irish way. George Bernard Shaw, once said, 'An Irishman's heart is nothing but his imagination'. Thank God for that imagination."
In response, Mr Kenny confirmed speculation that the Vice-President will travel to Ireland next month.
"Vice President Joe Biden, you honour us with your presence tonight and we look forward to having you with us in Ireland.
"You’ll see that when we say céad míle fáilte, a hundred thousand welcomes, we aren’t kidding," Mr Kenny said.
It is understood Mr Biden plans to spend four days travelling around the country with his family before stopping in the home county of the Taoiseach and his ancestors, Mayo.
It is believed Mr Biden will also trace his family roots in Ireland and will meet with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny.