Biden waves goodbye to Ireland in front of cathedral built by ancestor

Biden waves goodbye to Ireland in front of cathedral built by his great-great-great-grandfather: Thousands listen to President tell MORE stories about his ancestors after family tour with Hunter and sister Valerie

  • Friday was the final day of Biden’s four-day visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland
  • He capped the visit with a rousing speech in Ballina, the home of his ancestors 

President Joe Biden rounded off his visit to Ireland with a rousing speech celebrating his Irish heritage in front of a boisterous crowd in front of cathedral in western Ireland with a deep family connection. 

As he did throughout his four-day trip here, Biden weaved together comments about hard work and the immigrant spirit with recitations about his ancestors who left Ireland behind to start a new life in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

He recalled how one ancestor Edward Blewitt once sold 27,000 bricks that helped support St. Muredach’s Cathedral in County Mayo, where Biden arranged a speech before tens of thousands of cheering Irish fans. 

 ‘In 1828. he was paid 21 pounds and 12 shillings to help supply bricks for this cathedral,’ Biden said of his great-great-great-great grandfather.

‘I doubt he ever imagined his great-great grandson would return 200 years later as president of the United States of America. Isn’t that amazing?’ he asked, to cheers. 

President Joe Biden addressed a crowd of thousands on the last day of his trip to Ireland

Organizers said some 20,000 people packed into the space in front the cathedral and on the far side of the River Moy. 

In a speech without a central organizing theme, Biden ran through the greatest hits of his trip, and ran through familiar phrases from the power of ‘possibilities’ and heralded the ‘fierce pride in our Irish ancestry’ of many Americans who claim Irish ancestry.

He laced his remarks with nostalgic references, including one to the nation’s first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, who made his own trip to Ireland 60 years go.

And he called JFK’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy ‘one of my political heroes.’

‘We Irish are the only people actually nostalgic about the future,’ Biden said, hauling back one of his favorite references.

‘We’ve always, always carried hope in our hearts,’ Biden said, after detailing the story of relatives who left Ireland during times of hunger in hopes of making a better life abroad.

The cathedral was illuminated to the tip of its spire, sending shards of light into the dark night.

And Biden entered to the sort of roars reserved for rock stars. 

It made for a carnival end to a four-day visit that saw Biden spend as much time meeting relatives and connecting with his Irish heritage as he did on official meetings.

Biden spoke to Irish American ties during his speech

On Friday he spent the day in County Mayo, once home to the Blewitt branch of his mother’s family.

He was presented with a brick from his ancestors’ home in Ballina, just a short walk from the cathedral.

Earlier he visited Knock Shrine, a site of holy pilgrimage for Catholics from all over the world.

It held a more personal connection for Biden. 

‘We also met out of the blue a former military chaplain Fr O’Grady who gave my son last rites at Walter Reed Medical Center,’ said the president.

‘It was incredible to see him, it seemed like a sign.’

Earlier his host, Fr Richard Gibbons described how Biden broke down sobbing at the encounter.

‘He was crying, it really affected him and then we said a prayer, said a decade of the rosary for his family,’ he told the BBC.

‘He lit a candle and then he took a moment or two of private for prayer.’

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