The Irish family of Vice-President Joe Biden has voiced their excitement at the Biden family’s home-coming visit, scheduled for late June of this year.
Biden, who was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in 2014, often speaks of his pride in his 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 Ireland.
Although the Vice President has had many stop-overs in Shannon Airport while in office, he has never properly visited the country with his family. That is about to change.
The news was officially announced by Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny at Tuesday night's launch of a three-week Irish festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington at which Kenny declared that the Vice President would be “coming home” next month.
Biden’s Irish cousins are said to be proud and excited to finally be able to welcome him to Ireland.
His fourth cousin Laurita Blewitt told the Irish Mirror that there was a buzz in his home place of Knockmore, Co. Mayo, since the announcement was made.
“For us it’s a novel thing really,” she said.
“It’s something exciting and something for us all to be proud of.
“My dad Brendan Blewitt and Joe Biden would be third cousins.”
Biden grew up in Scranton, PA and he 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. Biden's mother Catherine ‘Jean’ Biden was Finnegan before she was married and that Finnegan connection has been traced back to Biden’s great-great grandfather who emigrated from the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth in 1850.
While his mother’s entire family tree traces to 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.
“When he became vice-president first genealogists identified us straight away as the family that would be closely linked and then literally loads of American people were getting in touch with me,” Blewitt continued, mentioning that Catherine Biden came to visit their ancestor's house in Knockmore Co. Mayo in the 1960s or 1970s.
“That would be my dad’s home house, my grandparents' house and we have pictures of that visit at home,” she said.
“His aunts and his sisters came as well years ago.
“He hasn’t visited Knockmore himself but that’s imminent now at this stage I would say.”
Vice President Biden may find on his trip 'home' that some of the family followed in his ancestors' footsteps and have since made their way to the US too, although it's unlikely he would approve of their political leanings.
“The funny thing is a lot of my dad’s family live in America so my dad’s brother Paddy Joe and his two sisters Agnes and Nora live in America and they would have always been very Republican minded voters,” said Blewitt.
“Americans don’t mind expressing how they vote not like here but it was funny when he was elected there was lots of jokes going round.”
Despite their differing political views, the exterior similarities between Biden and his Irish cousins may be more obvious, Blewitt believes.
“Recently a journalist came to take a picture of my dad and his picture and Joe Biden’s picture were put together in the paper and he’s not unlike him,” she claimed.
“He has that kind of look as well and the grey hair. My dad is a little bit like him around his eyes and stuff. You know it’s not a far out relation. Barack Obama's relations are a lot longer down the line than this would be.”
Biden has previously told IrishCentral sister publication, Irish America magazine, “I see myself as an Irish Catholic. If we have a moral obligation to other parts of the world why don’t we have a moral obligation to Ireland? It’s part of our blood.”
Earlier this week, the Vice President received the 2016 Laetare Medal – the oldest and most prestigious honor accorded to American Catholics – alongside former Speaker of the House John Boehner at the University of Notre Dame Commencement weekend.
H/T: The Irish Mirror