When Joseph Robinette Biden jnr lands on Irish soil this week, the 46th president of the United States will be the eighth sitting American president to visit Ireland.
The descendant of Irish Famine-era emigrants from Mayo and Louth, Biden’s visit will cover a mix of political and personal events, marking the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement – the Northern Ireland peace deal – and his ancestral roots. The four-day visit kicks off with his arrival in Northern Ireland and will take in official engagements in Dublin and personal events in Louth and Mayo, culminating in a public address in Ballina on Friday night.
Tuesday, April 11th – Belfast
Biden will land in Belfast on Air Force One on Tuesday evening, flying from Joint Base Andrews, the air force base next to Washington DC, on his transatlantic flight. It will be a late arrival but he is expected to be greeted by British prime minister Rishi Sunak when he lands.
Wednesday, April 12th – Dublin and Louth
The first engagement of Biden’s visit will be a meeting with Sunak at a Belfast city centre hotel where he is staying on his one-night visit to Northern Ireland.
The only public engagement of Biden’s short stop in Belfast will be a public address at Ulster University where he will mark the formal opening of the university’s Belfast campus.
He will be joined by the North’s political leaders and representatives from youth, business and civic communities. Expect Biden to make the set-piece political statements of his visit on the achievement of the 1998 Belfast Agreement and the dividends flowing from the deal that ended almost three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.
All eyes will be on Biden and what he says about the Windsor Framework, the EU-UK deal aimed at ending the impasse over the North’s Brexit deal which has not won unionist backing.
After the Ulster University speech, Biden and his entourage will head south for Dublin Airport before moving north again to Co Louth where he will visit Carlingford Castle. Here, he will hear about his great-great-grandfather Owen Finnegan who left for the US in the 1840s.
There are expected walkabouts in Carlingford and Dundalk before he returns to Dublin where he is said to be staying in a city centre hotel.
Thursday, April 13th – Dublin
Thursday will be a day of official engagements in the Republic, starting with Biden, an 80-year-old president, meeting the 81-year-old President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin in the Phoenix Park. Here, he will likely ring the Peace Bell and plant a tree, as previous visiting dignitaries have done. Expect an appearance from the Irish President’s two Bernese Mountain Dogs, Bród and Misneach, given Biden is also a dog owner and lover.
From there, he will travel the short distance within the park to Farmleigh where he will meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for their one-to-one meeting. Biden could also swing by Deerfield, the official residence of US ambassador Claire Cronin, also located in the park.
In the afternoon, Biden will become the fourth US president to address the Oireachtas, following John F Kennedy in 1963, Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Bill Clinton in 1995.
Later on Thursday, Biden will attend a banquet dinner at Dublin Castle.
Friday, April 14th – Mayo
On Friday, Biden will head for another ancestral county, Mayo, flying into Ireland West Airport, as the airport near Knock is officially known. Biden is the second Catholic to be elected to the White House (after JFK) will visit to the Knock Shrine before he heads to Ballina. This was the home of Biden’s great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt who emigrated to the US in 1850 and settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania – Biden’s hometown. There will be plenty of ancestry and genealogy talk on the Mayo leg.
The Irish visit will end with a public address outside St Muredach’s Cathedral in Ballina by the river Moy, a church that Edward Blewitt supplied the bricks for in 1828. This historical link will provide a neat oratorial ending to the visit by this most Irish of American presidents.
Biden will leave for his return transatlantic trip to the US from Dublin Airport on Friday night.