In his final speech on his Ireland tour, President Joe Biden said that he felt “like coming home” as he spoke at his ancestral home in Ballina in Co Mayo.
Dropkick Murphys’ Shipping Up to Boston was playing at St Muredach’s Cathedral as he was introduced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
In front of a large crowd, Mr Biden spoke at length about the bricks that were used to build the cathedral.
He said: “I’m sure that as he worked, he imagined that one day, his family would worship in this church, that his children, like Patrick, would be baptised, and that generations to come would celebrate their milestones here within the walls of this sturdy building. But I doubt that he thought that 200 years later, his great-great,great grandson, would return as the President of the United States of America.”
He was previously presented with a brick that had been recovered from the fireplace in his family’s ancestral house in Ballina.
Edward Blewitt, his great-great-great-grandfather, sold 27,000 bricks in 1827 to the cathedral. This helped him to buy tickets for his family to sail to America in 1851.
Mr Biden, too, broke into tears at earlier engagements after a heartfelt and unexpected meeting with a Priest who administered his son’s last rites.
The chaplain, who performed the sacrament at Beau Biden’s request, is now working at Knock Shrine in Co Mayo. This was where the President visited on Friday.
Fr Frank O’Grady presided over the ceremony performed for Beau Biden, before he passed away from brain cancer in 2015.
He was asked to meet the President and told RTE later that it felt “like a reunion”.
We had a pleasant chat for around 10 minutes. “He was thrilled to see me and I was thrilled to see him,” said he.
“He gave a big hugs, it felt like a reunion. He said he was grateful for everything I did.”
Fr Richard Gibbons, Parish Priest of Knock gave Mr Biden a tour of Our Lady of Knock Sanctuary – a Catholic Pilgrimage Site.
He said, “It was a remarkable afternoon.” When recounting the emotional reunion of Mr Biden with Fr O’Grady. I’ll never forget it. I can tell that it was something else.
After leaving Knock Mr Biden traveled to Castlebar where he paid a visit to the Mayo Roscommon Hospice.
After turning the sod in 2017, the president made a promise to return to the facility.
Beau Biden is commemorated on a plaque located at the hospice’s entrance.
The president met Laurita Blewitt, his distant cousin, at the site with his son Hunter, sister Valerie and their daughter.
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After landing at Knock Airport on Friday afternoon, Mr Biden completed his four-day island tour.
After his visit to Co Louth, the President is returning to his ancestral roots.
The president spoke passionately about his Irish roots and described Thursday’s address to the parliament of the country as “one the greatest honours of my life”.
Mr Varadkar and Mr Biden met at Ireland West Airport when Air Force One started its journey to Delaware, Mr Biden’s home state.
The Taoiseach declared that Irish-US relationships “have never been stronger” and expressed his delight at the success of the trip.
He said: “We have an ally at the White House. We have an administration looking out for Ireland. It is really special to have the largest political power, the largest economy, with a president and an administration interested in a tiny country of 5 million people.”