President Joe Biden will visit Ireland next week where he’s expected to explore his Irish roots while commemorating a landmark peace agreement signed 25 years ago.
The president is famously outspoken about his Irish heritage and his jokes about his connection to the country have sometimes raised eyebrows, but he’s likely to receive a warm welcome.
Biden will begin his visit in Belfast, Northern Ireland—which is part of the United Kingdom—where he’ll commemorate the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, a key document in establishing peace in Northern Ireland.
He’ll then travel south of the border on April 12 for a series of events, with the White House announcing on Wednesday that Biden will visit County Louth and County Mayo. Those counties were widely expected to be on Biden’s itinerary because his Irish ancestors originated from Mayo and Louth.
The president will deliver a public address at St. Muredach’s Cathedral in Ballina, County Mayo on the evening of April 14.
President Joe Biden’s Visit to Ireland
The president’s great-great-grandfather was Patrick Blewitt from County Mayo, who was born in 1832 and emigrated to the United States in 1850, settling in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He returned to Ireland the following year and brought his parents, Edward and Mary, and his siblings back with him.
Patrick Blewitt was a maternal ancestor of Biden’s mother Catherine Eugenia Finnegan, known as Jean, who was born in 1917.
Blewitt, whose work as a mining inspector also took him to South America, had a son named Edward F. Blewitt, who was born in New Orleans and qualified as a civil engineer before entering the Pennsylvania State Senate in 1907.
He and his wife, Mary Ellen Stanton had four children, including Geraldine Blewitt, who would make the crucial connection linking two sides of Biden’s family.
Biden’s other Irish great-great-grandfather was named Owen Finnegan and came from the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth. A shoemaker by trade, he was born in 1818 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1849, settling in Seneca, New York. His family joined him the following year.
Finnegan had married Jane Boyle in 1839 and one of their four children was James Finnegan, Biden’s great-grandfather. James Finnegan later moved to Scranton with his wife, Catherine Roche, and they had six children including Ambrose Finnegan.
The two families were joined by the marriage of Ambrose Finnegan and Geraldine Blewitt—the parents of Biden’s mother.
The president is expected to meet distant relatives when he visits Ireland next week, with opportunities to greet his Irish cousins most likely during his visits to County Louth and County Mayo, though no details about such meetings have yet been made public.
Biden has often described himself as Irish and even told jokes related to his ancestry. During remarks to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 this year, Biden reminisced about a previous visit to the country.
“When I went over to Ireland, It was a great experience. I’ve been to Ireland many times, but not to actually look up—to find my actual family members,” Biden said.
“And there are so many, and they actually weren’t in jail,” the president joked, adding that there was a place called Finnegan’s pub…that’s related to my family.”
“I’m the only Irishman you ever met, though, that’s never had a drink, so I’m okay. I’m really not Irish,” Biden joked.
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