Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born in 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and moved to Delaware as a child. The 47th vice president of the United States in the Obama administration, Biden also ran for the Democratic Party in 1988 and 2018 and has been a senator for 36 years.
Joe Biden paid his first official visit to Ireland as vice-president in 2016, and recently a group of supporters launched a campaign in his favor in that country. In the Irish town of Ballina in County Mayo, where his distant maternal relatives are located, there is a pop-art portrait of Biden.
Laurita Blewitt, her 37-year-old fourth cousin, was contacted by the White House for a list of dinner guests before Biden’s visit to Ireland in 2016.
“He has a lot of cousins who live in and around Ballina, and they are just a line of his Irish family,” said she, who lives near the town in County Mayo.
22 American presidents have Irish roots, including Ronald Reagan, whose ancestors were Irish Catholic immigrants, and John F Kennedy, who has the strongest Irish lineage, with both pairs of Irish grandparents. The most popular American president, John F Kennedy, paid a visit to Ireland five months before he was assassinated in 1963, being the first foreign leader to deliver a speech in Parliament.
The Irish origin always brought votes to the American candidates insofar as according to the latest census, one in 10 Americans – 33 million – has Irish descendants. After Kennedy and other American presidents, they crossed the Atlantic following their Irish ancestors, including Democrat Barack Obama, who learned from genealogists that he had a great-great-great-grandfather in Ireland.
As for Donald Trump, Joe Biden’s opponent, his only connection to this country is a golf club in County Clare.
Biden spoke in interviews about his strong connection to Ireland. The maternal line comes from two Irish families: Blewit from County Mayo and Finnegan from County Louth, Cooley Peninsula, on the border with Northern Ireland. On the paternal line, his Irish origins were traced to his great-grandmother Mary Jane Hanafee.
In an interview with Irish America in 1987, before his first Democratic presidential nomination, Biden spoke extensively about his origins and childhood in a city inhabited mostly by Irish immigrants, Scranton, Pennsylvania. Biden grew up in a neighborhood dominated by an Irish parish. Since then he has visited Ireland several times with his family.
“My mother’s maiden name was Finnegan, I think her family was from Mayo. Her grandparents on both sides were 100% Irish … My grandmother was half French. So at least a quarter of my father’s side were Irish, and his father insisted that Biden’s name was Irish, but he had no evidence, “Biden said in a 1987 interview.
“My great-grandmother Finnegan was the only one who could read Galician. He used to read letters in Galician to those who received letters from home and answered them. My great-grandmother used to say to me, “Remember, Joey Biden, your best blood is Irish,” Biden said.
The genealogist who clarified Obama’s Irish roots also helped Biden with his family tree. It all started with the emigration of two Irish families: Edward and Mary Blewitt and their 8 children who arrived in New York in January 1851. Among the children was Patrick, 18, Biden’s great-grandfather. established in Scranton; Owen and Jane Finnegan and their children, who arrived in New York in 1949 and 1950, respectively.
Families fled the famine (1845-1849) that killed 1 million people. 2 million Irish emigrated then. Their families reunited in 1909, when Ambrose Finnegan and Geraldine Blewitt were married in Scranton.
Chances are the Irish will vote for him
This month, Biden supporters formed the group “Irish for Biden” (Irish 4 Biden) and went to the Cooley Peninsula, where they launched a campaign against Irish relatives in America to persuade them to vote for Biden.
One of the locals, Eamon Thornton, told about Biden’s visit, in 2016, to the cemetery on the Irish Sea shore, where his ancestors from the Finnegan maternal line are buried.
“Massive burials took place during the famine. He visited his great-great-great-grandfather’s grave. It was obvious that he was deeply moved to be here, he touched the tombstones of his ancestors “, he said.
Few of Biden’s relatives attended the public event this month, with some citing the rate of new coronavirus infections on the border with Northern Ireland, others saying they are not Democrats, as are many Irish Americans.
“Of course, many would like a relative to come to the White House. But I could be neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I wouldn’t realize the difference, “said Gerry Finnegan, 70, a third cousin of Biden, a retired miner who has lived most of his life in Canada, Zambia and Indonesia. returned to his homeland.
In 2016, Gerry Finnegan showed Biden family photos at his local pub, some of which can be found in his own family albums. Although he has a close relationship with Biden, he says Trump “has his good points, despite the stupid things he says,” noting that many people in the Trump administration have Irish names. “Republicans are as Irish as Democrats, so it doesn’t matter anymore, the Irish rule America.”
Asked if he would pay a visit to the White House in the event of a Biden victory, he replied that he would probably send his niece.
The story was different from the Blewitt Irish in County Mayo who immediately approached Biden.
“My brother, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins came. I was lucky to be next to him. From the first moment I felt a genuine warmth from him. It was as if I had known him for a lifetime. There was no embarrassment. He was relaxed and at ease “, says Laurita Blewitt.
Biden developed a stronger bond with his mother Christina, who had cancer – and his mother, like one of his sons, died of cancer. Biden supported the construction of a cancer care center in Castlebar, Mayo County.
Laurita Blewitt was invited to the White House in January the following year, 2017, when Biden received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama. A few months later, Biden returned to Ireland for a more private visit to the Blewitt family and walked the Ballina in a hat.
Laurita Blewitt has only words of appreciation for Biden compared to Irish politicians: “Joe is different. He talks to so many people every day and yet he remembers who you are, he makes time for you, ”says Biden’s distant cousin, who went to Nevada to help campaign for the Democratic primary. His brother Joe, a local plumber, has a pro-Biden message on his work van: “Joe Biden for the White House and Joe Blewitt for your house” and as he quickly went viral he began receiving hostile messages most likely from Trump’s American supporters.
“People were sending him crazy memes with Trump, calling him and yelling at him. I don’t know if Trump is instigating this or is it just the society we live in now. But he’s mean. It’s the opposite of Joe, “she said.
Joe Biden’s election campaign is centered around preventing Donald Trump from winning a second term.
“If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, it will fundamentally and permanently change the character of this nation, our identity, and I can’t stand aside and see how that happens,” Joe Biden said.