Joe Biden and the Irish Connection
‘’Northeast Pennsylvania will be written on my heart. But Ireland will be written on my soul’’ – Joe Biden, 2016
No other country in the world has a closer affinity with its diaspora in the US than Ireland, and no other country takes as much pride in the ancestry of US Presidents than Ireland. For us, it is a symbol of the hard work and success of Irish emigrants all over the world.
There has probably been no other in US history that takes a greater in pride in their heritage than Joe Biden, or as he will be known from 20th January, President Biden, the 46th President of the United States.
Back in 2016, when we were asked to arrange the Vice President’s visit to Carlingford, we had many private moments together. Brief as it was, he always felt the need to ask about the Irish and what drove a country of our size to have a great impact on the world. He would repeatedly say the Irish made America better.
There is no doubt that his Presidency will see the dawn of a new era of Irish American relations, rebuilding the Atlantic Alliance which JFK and De Valera so proudly founded and cherished.
In the course of running our Irish For Biden campaign, the question was often asked ‘’what difference will it make to Ireland?’’
To put it simply, the answer is a helluva lot.
While the news of 2020 has been utterly dominated by our General Election, Australian bush fires, the Covid-19 pandemic and the US election, we cannot ignore Brexit, the largest elephant in the room.
President Elect Biden stated on numerous occasions that the Good Friday Agreement and peace on the island is sacrosanct. The feedback I am getting from Joe Biden’s foreign policy advisers is that they believe Boris Johnson is a kind of pound shop Trump, and his desire for populism and Brexit have made the incoming President more passionate about the Good Friday Agreement and more committed to Ireland than ever.
Many British politicians need to revisit their relationship with America and The White House. I would go so far as to say that many underestimate how seriously Biden takes his Irish roots and that there will be no trade deal with America unless Ireland’s interests are respected first.
Just look at the difference between Biden’s heartfelt tribute to the late John Hume and Trump’s total silence. It spoke volumes.
There is no doubt that Ireland now has at least two listening ears in the White House, and the potential for this is enormous, from improved relationships, US companies in Ireland, undocumented Irish, Brexit and co-operation on international policy due to our seat on the UN Security Council.
For a new President, it is always very telling who the first foreign leader to visit the White House is, and which country they visit first. I would encourage our Taoiseach Micheal Martin to begin packing his overnight bag and sending some invitations.
If nothing else, we’ll surely get a big state visit in the springtime to welcome home our local Joe.
As President Clinton once said to me, ‘’The world thinks more of the Irish than the Irish think of themselves.’’