Joe Biden makes no secret of his Irish roots. And his Irish cousins in Louth and Mayo aren’t backwards about coming forwards either. While most of the world appears to be celebrating the declaration that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be taking over the White House in January, the story holds a special place in the hearts of locals in Carlingford Co Louth and Ballina Co Mayo.
There was dancing on the streets of the picturesque seaside village of Carlingford with its many medieval buildings and lovely fish restaurants at the weekend. Mr Biden’s great-great-grandfather emigrated to America from the town in the 1840s. The incoming 46th president of the United States has previously visited the town. On Sunday the Carlingford pipe band rocked up in the centre of the cobblestoned town and began to play a new composition ‘Our Local Joe’.
Distant cousins, the Finnegans, who live in and around Carlingford, turned out to celebrate the historic win- Joe Biden cardboard cut-outs in hand. Local Councilor Andrea McKevitt, another cousin, said: “When he got elected, everyone was so ecstatic and we are so proud of cousin Joe”. The vibe in Carlingford was “truly magical” after the media’s announcement that Biden and Harris had it in the bag.
The Stars ‘n’ Stripes waved in a gentle sea breeze alongside the tricolour on Sunday morning as more and more locals poured into the village centre. On his visit to the town four years ago, an upbeat Joe Biden declared that he wanted to revisit Carlingford someday as President of the United States. Carlingford residents were keen to make good on that dream on Sunday, extending an invitation to the president-elect.
The festivities on Louth’s Cooley peninsula were organised by the group Irish for Biden. The organisation encouraged Irish people to lobby their US dwelling relatives to vote for Biden. Paul Allen from Irish for Biden said, “There probably has been no other president in US history that takes a greater pride in their heritage than Joe Biden”.
Biden is particularly important to Co Louth residents as he has made clear his steadfast support for the Belfast Agreement. Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that Joe Biden has a “genuine, outstanding commitment to Ireland”. The Taoiseach added that Biden is “probably the most Irish president since John F. Kennedy in terms of his background”. Speaking of how the new president might show his commitment to Ireland, Mr Martin said, “He’s also steadfast in his support of the Good Friday Agreement and I think will work with us in the spirit of successive US administrations in continuing to build peace on the island of Ireland and to maintain and nurture it and in particular to protect the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that the Biden-Harris team was “very clear in its support for Ireland, for the Good Friday Agreement”. With dubious Brexit manoeuvres coming from the Tory government of Boris Johnson, residents of the border counties are heaving a big sigh of relief at the installation of the new regime. The Biden camp has been clear that there will be no US-UK trade deal if the British government messes with the Good Friday Agreement in any way.
Across the other side of the country in Ballina, the American paraphernalia was out in force after the historic win. A red Buick sat in the centre of town and American flags adorned the lamposts. The people of Ballina are calling the area ‘Bidenland’ as they cracked open the champagne under a pop art-style mural of the incoming US president. Biden is the great-great-great-grandson of Edward Blewitt who emigrated to the US from the Mayo town in the 1840s. Blewitt settled in Scranton Pennsylvania, where Joe Biden himself was born.
Joe Blewitt, a Ballina plumber and their cousin of Joe Biden said: “The count just dragged out and dragged and finally it happened. We’re thrilled, we’re delighted”. When Joe Biden last visited Ballina, he turned a sod at a new hospice there, in honour of his own son Beau, who tragically died in 2015. “We’re just delighted, it was a little bit surreal,” said Laurita Blewitt, a fourth cousin of Biden. Laurita helped organise events for the welcome of Joe Biden back in 2016. She hopes that he will return as president to the town of his ancestors.