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Joe Biden posing with local residents in Ballina in 2016. Alamy Stock Photo
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A Dundalk walkabout and Ballina homecoming speech: What we know about Biden's trip next week

US President Joe Biden will travel to Ireland between 11 to 14 April next week.

A WALK ABOUT Dundalk, a trip to the Áras and a big address to the crowds in Ballina – these are just some things that US President Joe Biden is expected to get up to in Ireland next week. 

It’s been the worst-kept secret over the last number of months that a trip was forthcoming, and yesterday the White House finally confirmed that Biden will travel here for four days next week.

So what do we know so far about the trip?

Belfast

Biden will be in Belfast on 11 and 12 April to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

“President Biden will first travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland from April 11-12 to mark the tremendous progress since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 25 years ago and to underscore the readiness of the United States to support Northern Ireland’s vast economic potential to the benefit of all communities,” the White House statement confirmed yesterday. 

Security vehicles used to transport and protect Biden have already been seen arriving in Northern Ireland.

The details around the Northern Ireland leg of the trip are vague, but there has been some speculation that Biden will be staying in Hillsborough Castle and that there will be a formal reception with cross-party politicians, as well as those that played a role in the Good Friday Agreement.  

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to be in Northern Ireland during the visit of the US president, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne has told the Policing Board.

Byrne said: “Engagements have been planned for a number of parts of the Greater Belfast area and the Prime Minister is also expected to visit Northern Ireland during this time.”

‘Walkabout’ in Dundalk

While the itinerary is subject to change, security sources have indicated to The Journal the current plan is that upon leaving Northern Ireland on Wednesday, the US president will go for a “walkabout” in Dundalk. 

Biden’s great-grandfather, James Finnegan, emigrated from Louth as a child in 1850.

joe-biden-vice-president-of-the-united-states-tours-with-enda-kenny-the-irish-prime-minister-taoiseach-the-towns-of-ballina Biden doing a walk about in Ballina during his last visit in 2016. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The US president is due to arrive into Dublin on Wednesday evening. 

There is still speculation about where he will stay in the capital, with Farmleigh House, the US Ambassador’s residence and the Merrion Hotel all mentioned as possibilities.

There is a full agenda on Thursday 13 April, with Biden expected to make a trip to Áras an Uachtaráin to meet with President Michael D Higgins. 

Biden is also set to address a joint sitting of the Dáil and Seanad on Thursday at approximately 3pm.

The Ceann Comhairle, the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, the Clerk of the Dáil and the Oireachtas management team all met with the White House advance party in Leinster House yesterday. 

Additional cameras have already been installed in the halls of Leinster House to capture the walk through of the US president through the building and up the stairs that lead to the Dáil chamber. 

Biden will be the fourth US president to do so – following John F Kennedy’s address in June 1963, Ronald Reagan’s in June 1984 and Bill Clinton’s in December 1995.

An event is also due to take place at Dublin Castle on Thursday, with a possible State reception on the cards.

Mayo for Joe

On Friday, Biden will travel to Knock according to security sources, where it is speculated he will pay a visit to the Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation. 

Sources within government have said such a visit is definitely “in the mix” as Biden turned the first sod on the Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation project in 2017.

His cousin, Laurita Blewit, who was recently in attendance at the White House shamrock ceremony with her husband Joe Brolly, is also one of the leading fundraisers.

joe-brolly-and-his-wife-laurita-blewitt-during-a-st-patricks-day-celebration-reception-and-shamrock-presentation-ceremony-at-the-white-house-in-washington-dc-during-taoiseach-leo-varadkars-visit-t Cousin of Joe Biden, Laurita Blewitt and her husband Joe Brolly, during the St Patrick's Day celebration reception and shamrock presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington DC last month. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The Mayo hospice building in Castlebar was opened in 2019, while the Roscommon building opened its palliative care unit in 2021. 

In a YouTube video in 2021, Biden sent his best wishes to those involved in the project. 

In the video he spoke about the “deeply moving experience” of visiting the area and turning the sod on the development in 2017.

Mayo Roscommon Hospice / YouTube

“As many of you know, my family traveled to Ireland in 2016. We felt so much love and it was also bittersweet since it was a trip that I had hoped to share with our son Beau, to come together and touch the soil of our Irish roots and our family’s history and heritage.

“The fact that it’s Beau’s name and memory woven into the tapestry of this hospice is something my family and I and his children in particular will never ever forget,” Biden said. 

Beau Biden, the president’s son, died in 2015 after a two-year battle with brain cancer. 

Homecoming speech

From Knock, it is expected that Biden will make his way to his ancestral home in Ballina, Co Mayo, where the locals are already planning to roll out the red carpet for his return.

Biden’s great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewit emigrated from the town almost 200 years ago, having worked as a brick-maker and as a civil engineer helping to map Ireland.

He first visited Ballina in June 2016 as US vice-president.

Screenshot - 2023-04-06T123906.133

Biden is to round out his trip to Ireland with a homecoming speech to the public in Ballina, which will take place outside St Muredach’s Cathedral in the town on Friday afternoon.

The US embassy said in a statement that the event is open to the public and anyone wishing to attend the event should register here

Additional reporting by Niall O’Connor and Press Association 

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