The Vice President speaks about how his Irish heritage “shaped my soul.” His Irish visit begins

Today marks the beginning of Vice President Joe Biden’s six-day trip to his ancestral home in Ireland. A big part of his message will be slamming Donald Trump for his anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Lately Biden has joined the fray against Trump as he announced his strong backing for Hilary Clinton despite long time tensions between the Biden and Clinton camps.

Trump had originally planned to be in Ireland too, visiting his Doonbeg resort but Irish Central reported exclusively that the trip was off.

But Trump will be in Scotland to showcase his new golf course at Turnberry. He is expected to fire back at Biden, whom he has slammed as the worst ever Vice President.

Biden attacked Trump's position on immigrants before he left in an interview with The Irish Times and RTE.

"We are a nation of immigrants and throughout our past we have seen people spouting the same kind of hateful rhetoric (as Trump).

He said in the mid 1800s it was directed against the Irish and later against Italians and Polish.

Biden has a speech aimed directly at Trump on Friday where he will speak on the values of tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness. 

While in Ireland, Biden will travel to his family homes in Co. Louth and Mayo. Biden will also meet with Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny and Irish President Michael D. Higgins in Dublin.

This is the Vice-President’s first personal trip to Ireland with his family, a trip he had planned to make with his son Beau, who tragically died of brain cancer in May 2015, aged 48.

Speaking to RTÉ and the Irish Times, Biden described himself as “incredibly privileged” to finally make a journey back to his Irish roots.

"My grandfather and grandmother Finnegan, all my mother's brothers, and my father told us about the courage and commitment it took for our relatives to emigrate from Ireland — in the midst of tragedy – to distant shores, where they didn't know what awaited them. It took great courage," he said.

"I feel incredibly privileged to be able to share that heritage and this experience with my brother, my sister, my children, and all my grandkids".

Biden, who was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in 2014, often speaks of his proud Irish roots, traced back to counties Mayo and Louth, and he holds a long-standing invitation from the Irish government to travel to further research his roots in the island.

Although the Vice President has made many stop-overs in Shannon Airport while in office, he has never properly visited the country with his family. They now return to Ireland in a personal capacity, to the heritage which Biden says has “shaped his soul.”

"It means a great deal to me to visit the island. It’s the land from which my ancestors emigrated, seeking a better future – and now their great-great-great-grandson is vice-president of the United States of America,” he told the Irish Times and RTÉ.

On the eve of his departure, however, Biden criticized the anti-immigrant words of Donald Trump, stating that the presumptive Republican nominee’s stance undermined the US "capacity to lead around the world."

Biden continued to stress both his and President Obama’s stance on immigration reform, insisting that opportunity should be given to illegal immigrants to gain citizenship. He believes Trump’s words give a "false impression of who we are as a nation."

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: Donald Trump cancels trip to Ireland next week

The Vice President spoke in particular about Northern Ireland, citing the peace process as "an inspiration to nations around the world struggling to end long conflicts."

“Proof that long hatreds can end – that peace is possible," he said, adding that he was proud of the part he had to play while Senator and in his current role.

Biden grew up in Scranton, PA, a town with a large Irish-American population. Biden is believed to be five-eighths Irish, with an especially strong connection on his mother’s side of the family.

On the paternal side, Biden’s great-great grandfather emigrated from Knockmore, Co Mayo in the 19th Century, while on the maternal side, his mother Catherine ‘Jean’ Biden (nee Finnegan) and the Finnegan connection were traced back to Biden’s great-great grandfather who emigrated from the Cooley peninsula in Louth in 1850.

While his mother’s entire family tree originates in Ireland with ancestors named Arthurs, Blewitt, Boyle, Roche, Scanlon and Stanton accompanying her Finnegan kin, just one-eighth comes from Biden’s father’s side, which contributed the Hanafee name.

Biden will hold bilateral talks during his visit with the Taoiseach and President in Phoenix Park, where security will operate around the clock during his visit. On Friday evening he will deliver a keynote address in Dublin.

The meetings with Kenny and and Higgins are set to discuss trade and other ties between the US and Ireland, as well as the Northern Ireland peace process and European security, while Biden’s keynote speech will concentrate on "the Irish-American experience, the shared heritage of the two nations, and the values of tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness."

Read more: Irish cousin of Joe Biden proud and excited that the Vice President is “coming home”


H/T: Irish Times and RTÉ