"Fortunately politics is going better," commented Vice President Joe Biden when asked on the round of golf he played with Taoiseach Enda Kenny which started off the third day of his Ireland trip today.
A long-standing invitation to play 18 holes with Kenny is believed to be one of the reasons why the Vice President finally made the decision to travel to his ancestral home this year on a six-day personal trip with several close members of his family.
Battling against difficult weather conditions, they took to Castlebar golf course before Biden made his way back to Dublin in advance of the keynote address he will deliver in Dublin Castle on Friday.
The Vice President has received a warm welcome throughout Ireland since his arrival, in particular, in Co. Mayo where he visited his family home. Traveling with his sister, brother and grandchildren, Biden had planned to make this trip to Ireland with his son Beau before his untimely death last year aged 48.
Arriving in Dublin on Tuesday, Biden met with Taoiseach Kenny who presented the Vice President with a hurl in honor of our national sports.
On Wednesday morning he traveled to the President’s residence in Áras an Uachtaráin meeting with President Michael D. Higgins, along with his wife Sabina, US Ambassador Kevin O’Malley and Irish Ambassador Anne Anderson.
On the table for discussion were the current issues facing the European Union and the current position in relation to the peace process in Northern Ireland as well as the present position of the discussion and advocacy in relation to the legislative process regarding out of status Irish in the United States.
President Higgins also commended Vice President Biden’s work on the elimination of all forms of violence against women, before Biden signed the visitor's book with the words of JFK, spoken on the former President’s own trip to Ireland.
On this the 63rd anniversary of Kennedy’s visit, Biden wrote “our two nations, divided by distance have been united by our people,” the Vice President adding “we are united by the hearts and souls of our people”.
While in Áras an Uachtaráin, Biden also met with Fiona Fitzsimons and Helen Moss of the Irish Family History Center, who were tasked by the US Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley, to carry out detailed research on the family’s ancestors.
Presented with the new research, this was the first time that Biden heard of his family’s involvement in the famine relief works.
“We're delighted to meet Vice President Joe Biden, to present newly discovered evidence, and new insights into his family history,” said Fitzsimons.
On Wednesday afternoon, Taoiseach Kenny acted as the Biden family’s personal tour guide as they flew into Knock airport to visit both Biden and Kenny’s home place. Traveling first to Ballina, the crowds lined to streets with Mayo and US flags to welcome the Vice President home and schoolchildren performed traditional Irish music.
The Biden family were met by historian Ciaran Reilly who briefed the family on the history of the famine in Ballina and in Mayo, explaining the pivotal role that their great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt, who left Ballina in 1951, played in saving the Mayo people from hunger while head of the Ballina famine relief works.
The journey around Mayo continued and huge crowds stayed out to catch a glimpse of the Vice President wherever he went despite the typical Irish rain. Many of Blewitts’ distant relatives still live in the area and were out in force to welcome home the Bidens.
"He seemed like such a lovely man and he had such a good focus on the children as well,” said Clodagh Butler, one such distant relative.
"He was really personable. It was a really great thing to meet him - it was wonderful. We told him that our grandad was his fourth cousin and our mum was upstairs waiting to meet him as well.
"He said to us it felt like home for him too."
"I've enjoyed my day, my whole family... we have had a wonderful, wonderful time," Biden said of the Mayo leg of their trip.
"By the way, the Biden's are moving back - I didn't know I had such a good-looking family here."
Biden continued onto the Taoiseach’s homeplace of Castlebar and joined in the country-wide celebration as Ireland faced off against Italy in the Euros, checking on the score of the match in Coady’s Pub.
The Vice President and his entourage have now returned to Dublin where he will visit the Book of Kells and make remarks at Trinity College Dublin before his keynote address in Dublin Castle tomorrow afternoon.
He will deliver remarks on the Irish-American experience, the shared heritage of the two nations, and the values of tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness, while traditional Irish band The Chieftains, singer-songwriter Mundy, and Irish language band Seo Linn will also perform.
The event is open to the public but tickets are required and can be found on a first come first serve basis on the Dublin Castle website.
On Saturday the Vice President will visit Newgrange and travel to his second ancestral home in Co. Louth, returning to the US on Sunday.