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Taoiseach's St Patrick's Day with Biden: What is planned and what are Biden's Irish roots?

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The US and Republic of Ireland have long been tied thanks to a common ancestry and shared values, according to the US Government. Hundreds of Irish citizens moved to the US to escape the potato famine of the 19th century, and many emigrate to the other side of the Atlantic every year. The US Government website reads: “In addition to regular dialogue on political and economic issues, the US and Irish Governments benefit from a robust slate of exchanges in areas such as commerce, culture, education ad scientific research.”

What is planned for St Patrick’s Day 2021?

Taoiseach Martin is planning three days of virtual events with US President Joe Biden ahead of St Patrick’s Day.

During the celebration, Mr Martin will also meet Vice-President Kamala Harris and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The events will kick off on Monday, March 15, and come in place of the Taoiseach’s traditional visit to the White House, which is unable to go ahead due to covid restrictions.

However, in good news for US-Irish relations, the tradition of the Taoiseach celebrating St Patrick’s Day with the President will take place as usual, albeit virtually.

Mr Martin will hold a policy address to the Washington DC Brookings Institution on Monday in an effort to explain his thinking on managing relations post-Brexit.

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This evening, the Taoiseach will speak at the launch of ‘From Whence I Came: The Kennedy Legacy, Ireland and America’.

The first day, Monday, will close with an address by Mr Martin to Boston’s ‘Irish American Partnership’ St Patrick’s Day celebration.

On Tuesday, the Taoiseach will attend virtual round table events hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise Ireland and the Industrial Development Agency (IDA).

The highest level of political talks will take place on Wednesday, St Patrick’s Day, when the Taoiseach will speak directly with President Biden.

Discussions are expected to cover a range of topics from the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery to shared global aims, including those surrounding climate change.

The meeting will also provide an opportunity for the Taoiseach to thank the President for the US’s backing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking over the weekend, Mr Martin said: “My visit is an opportunity to highlight how our mutually beneficial trade and investment relationship leaves both our economic well-positioned to bounce back quickly.

“I look forward greatly to meeting with President Biden, who has a very special connection with Ireland, and to bring him greetings from Ireland on his first St Patrick’s Day in office as President.

“I will thank him personally for his unstinting support for Ireland over many years, including in recent times for his support in helping to secure a positive outcome in the Brexit negotiations, as we face into the task of now making those new arrangements work well.”

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Is Joe Biden Irish?

Joe Biden has a personal connection to the Republic of Ireland via his ancestry.

Mr Biden is hugely proud of his Irish roots, having made a big point of bringing up his roots and religion during his recent presidential campaign.

The President’s great-grandfather, James Finnegan, emigrated from Country Louth as a child in 1850.

In fact, all of his great-grandparents on his maternal and paternal side were born in Ireland, essentially making him five eights Irish.

Mr Biden can trace his ancestry back to the Blewitt family from County Mayo too.

His great-great-grandfather, Patrick Blewitt, was born in Ballina, County Mayo in 1832 before leaving for the US aged 18 in 1850 – the same year his paternal great-grandfather made the move.

Mr Blewitt returned to Ireland in 1851 to bring across the rest of his family before settling in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Mr Biden would be born decades later.

Mr Biden’s victory was celebrated in his ancestral home of Ballina, where there is a mural in his honour in Market Square.

Following the election, Joe Blewitt, 41, who is Mr Biden’s third cousin, said: “The count just dragged out and dragged and finally it happened. We’re thrilled, we’re delighted.”



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