Biden’s ancestral homeland is preparing a warm Irish welcome. WGN Radio 720

Ballina, Ireland (AP) — Joe Brewitt is the busiest person in Ballina. As he prepares to welcome his relative, U.S. President Joe Biden, his phone is ringing incessantly with calls from locals and the world’s media.

Biden plans to travel to Ireland next week, stopping in the town of Ballina, where one of his great-great-grandfathers left for the United States in 1850. The vice president in 2016 said he had promised to return if the US leader was elected president.

“He said, ‘I’m going back to Ballina,’ and I’m sure to God he’ll be back to Ballina,” Brewitt said. deep in the

The 43-year-old plumber was one of Biden officials invited to the White House on St. Patrick’s Day last month. He said it was a “surreal” experience, including his 30-minute private meeting with the president.

“He’s a man of people. He loves meeting people in Ireland,” said Brewitt, who shares Biden’s high forehead — he said that people wanted him “out of mouth” like a president. I joke when I see it.

“Irish people love him.”

In Ballina, a bustling farming town of about 10,000 at the mouth of the River Moy in western Ireland, buildings have been given new paint and American flags hang from storefronts.

The town center already has a glowing Biden mural built in 2020. Many people from Ballina and the surrounding Mayo immigrated to Pennsylvania in his 19th century. Ballina is a twin with Biden’s hometown of Scranton.

Anthony Heffernan, owner of Heffernan’s Fine Foods, where Biden had lunch with local relatives during a visit in 2016, said, “There is no family in Ballina without someone with some connection to the United States. I think,” he said.

“It was a great day for Ballina,” recalls Heffernan.

“He was very enthusiastic about telling us about the town, what it was then and what it is now. He really connected with the area.”

Biden is scheduled to visit Belfast, Northern Ireland on Tuesday and Wednesday to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday peace deal before heading to the Republic of Ireland in the south to address Parliament in Dublin, the White House said. In Ballina, on Friday he will give a speech in front of the 19th-century cathedral. Local lore holds that the cathedral was built in part from bricks supplied by his great-great-grandfather Edward Brewitt, a bricklayer and civil engineer.

The Irish Family History Center says Biden is “the most ‘Irish’ of all U.S. presidents.” Ten of his 16 great-great-grandparents were from Emerald Island. They all left for the United States during the great famine of the mid-19th century, killing an estimated 1 million.

Biden will also visit the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth, about 240 kilometers from Ballina on Ireland’s east coast. His great-grandfather, James Finnegan, immigrated in a year of famine He is one of over a million Irish He was windswept in the mountains as a child in 1850 left the peninsula.

“There’s a huge euphoria around the place. Andrea McKevitt, a local politician and distant relative of Mr. Biden, said everyone was like, ‘What’s going on, when is it coming? Where are you going?”

White House press secretary Carine Jean-Pierre told reporters the president was using his visit to Ireland to “be part of a larger history of how his family’s history was shared between the United States and Ireland.” There is,” he said.

The trip is also a reminder of the central role of Irish Americans in US political life. Ireland has warmly welcomed the President of the United States since John F. Kennedy first visited Ireland in 1963.

“My name is Barack Obama from Moneygall Obama. I went home and found my lost apostrophe somewhere,” he joked to the crowd in Dublin.

Over 30 million Americans (almost 1 in 10) claim to have some Irish ancestry. Richard Johnson, a senior lecturer in American politics at Queen Mary University in London, says Irish Americans haven’t formed a solid Democratic constituency for decades, yet “Americans are Irish. Emphasizing roots is good politics at home.”

“One of the reasons Irish identity resonates with Americans is that American identity is based in part on the idea that America was liberated from the British Empire and set its own course. is,” he said. “There’s kind of an echo of that story that you see in the Irish experience. I think it’s appealing to Americans because it makes the Irish feel like they share a common experience of getting out of British rule.” .”

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Mr Biden “will always be a friend of Ireland” and that the visit “will be an opportunity to welcome our great Irish-American president”.

In Ballina, Brewitt said the town was preparing to welcome Biden enthusiastically.

“The streets will be crowded,” he said. “It’s going to be like another St. Patrick’s Day.” Biden’s ancestral homeland is preparing a warm Irish welcome. WGN Radio 720

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