Biden Tops off Ireland Trip with a Call to “Serve the Cause of Peace”

April 14, 2023

President Biden topped off his trip to Ireland with a speech in Ballina, County Mayo before a cheering crowd of thousands.

“It’s great to be back in Ballina during your 300th anniversary,” Biden began. He then recognized Ballina as the home of Ireland’s first woman President, Mary Robinson, one of Ireland’s youngest mayors, Mark Duffy, and “maybe to be Ireland’s first female astronaut, Norah Patten.”

Biden also announced to the crowd that the newest U.S. Navy destroyer has been named the USS Patrick Gallagher, after a Mayo-born U.S. Marine who immigrated to New York in 1962 and worked for the Senate campaign on Robert F. Kennedy.

A few years later “when he wasn’t even a U.S. citizen,” Biden said, Gallagher had deployed to Vietnam where he achieved the Iron Cross for his heroism, having thrown himself on top of a grenade to save the lives of his fellow servicemen in 1966. Though Gallagher survived that attack, he was later killed in action. 

Ballina, County Mayo was the last leg of Biden’s four-day trip to the Emerald Isle, which was both personal and diplomatic as its timing coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Peace Agreement that ended thirty years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

In Belfast, Northern Ireland on Wednesday Biden called for a return to power sharing between the executive and the assembly in the North, as per the 1998 peace agreement.

In Ballina on Friday, Biden said that the peace agreement marked “25 years of peace and progress, not just for people of Northern Ireland but for people all across the island. It’s a reminder of the importance of peace, what you accomplish when we work together in common cause.”

On Wednesday evening, Biden traveled to Dundalk, County Louth where he took part in a community gathering in the ancestral home of his maternal great-grandparents, the Finnegans.

He met with both Irish President Michael Higgins and Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin on Thursday, where he gave an impassioned speech before Parliament calling on the U.S. and Ireland to join together in the struggle between “liberty and oppression” as well as “democracy and autocracy.”

County Mayo, his Friday stop, is the home of Biden’s Blewitt ancestors. Ballina is the “sister city” of Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Biden was born. In fact, the Mayor of Scranton, Paige Cognetti, accompanied Biden to Ballina. 

In his Friday speech Biden also called on Ireland to work with the U.S. in facing the world’s challenges—”challenges too big for one nation to face on their own,” like global hunger, the climate crisis and the fight for democracy in the face of Russia’s aggression and “brutal violence.”

“I’ve never been more optimistic of what what can achieve if we stick together and stick to our values,” he finished. “May God protect all those who serve the cause of peace.”

According to the Irish Family History Centre, Biden “is among the most ‘Irish’ of all U.S. Presidents.” Ten of his 16 great-great grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland during the Great Famine in the mid-1800s.

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