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The Wee County

An ancestral tribute and a mistaken reference to the Black and Tans: Biden 'comes home' to Louth

Biden spoke at Windsor Bar in Dundalk this evening.

“COMING HERE FEELS like coming home.”

That’s how US President Joe Biden described his arrival into Co Louth this afternoon, inside a packed pub in the centre of Dundalk.

Biden has often spoken of his Irish roots, often regaling about his grandfather, Ambrose J Finnegan, in speeches.

He didn’t fail to mention him this evening, telling the gathered crowd that Finnegan had often told him:

“The best drop of blood in you is Irish.”

The President’s visit to the county had been well flagged in the days ahead, with both Dundalk and Carlingford being transformed with American flags and signs welcoming Joe Biden home.

Poor weather, however, saw Biden delayed, with the President opting to take his Beast for a drive along the M1 rather than flying directly to Cooley on board Marine One.

Even despite the continued downpour, crowds in Dundalk were in high spirits while waiting for Biden.

One onlooker told The Journal that it felt like a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

Biden did manage to roll into town at 7pm, when eagle-eyed onlookers first caught a glimpse of the Garda escort bikes.

The Beast rolled on up Clanbrassil Street, before crawling to a stop in the middle of the road.

Secret Service officials could be spotted standing beside the doors of the armoured limousine, while Tánaiste Micheál Martin began to work the crowd.

After a few moments of crowds cheering for Biden, the US president emerged from The Beast, cap atop his head, and immediately headed towards the railing to shake the hands of anyone who got close.

One local Dundalk family managed to get up close, with Biden taking the time to chat and shake hands.

Emily Hargadon, 10, told The Journal, that she managed to shake Biden’s hand and have a quick chat

“He told me that I had beautiful eyes,” Emily said.

“He asked me who I had gotten my eyes from, my mam or my dad? And I said I got them from my grandad Errol.

“Then he said, ‘you’d better thank your grandad’.”

While he took his time meeting and greeting with the crowd, Biden then made a 180-degree turn and strolled his way into a local market, McAteers Food House.

He was greeted by ten workers, with owner Jerome McAteer introducing them one by one.

McAteer introduced one worker by saying “he does more talking than working.”

“I don’t know, he sounds like me,” Biden joked. 

Shortly ahead of his departure from McAteers, Biden questioned why his ancestors had opted to leave Louth in the first place, saying:

“I don’t know why the hell my ancestors left here. It’s beautiful.”

After leaving McAteers, Biden headed towards the crowd for a final time, before saluting and hopping back into the Beast to speed down towards the Windsor Bar, where the Kearneys, McKevitts and Finnegans had gathered.

Making remarks in the pub, Biden paid tribute to the people of Dundalk and wider Louth, sayin:

“I’m so proud to be here, I’m so proud to be in Louth.”

At one point, he appeared to confuse the nickname of the New Zealand rugby team while thanking relative and former Irish rugby player Rob Kearney for the gift of the Irish victory against the All Blacks at Soldier Field in Chicago in 2016.

Referencing a tie given to him by Kearney, Biden said:  “See this tie I have, this shamrock tie? It was given to by one of these guys right here, who’s a hell of a rugby player who beat the hell out of the Black and Tans.”

The error was laughed off, and Biden also opted to crack a joke about the badly-timed Covid diagnosis that Micheál Martin received, just hours before the US president was due to receive him for the traditional St Patrick’s Day shamrock handover in the White House.

“Thank you all for the homecoming welcome,” he said, before joking that the only bad news was that he would be back.

“There’s no way to keep us out. Thank you, thank you, thank you, we love you.”

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