Holding up his own family history as an example, President Joe Biden on Thursday told lawmakers in a packed parliament building that the story of Irish immigrants setting sail for the US is at the very heart of “what binds Ireland and America together.”
“Like so many countries around the world, though perhaps more than most, the United States was shaped by Ireland,” Biden said in an address to a joint sitting of the Oireachtas in Leinster House.
“And the values we share remain to this day the core of the historic partnership between our people and our governments.”
In his address, Biden stressed the importance of economic ties, a united front on the war in Ukraine, and a shared urgency to manage climate change. Biden addressed the parliament as part of his four-day trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland, where he also met with political leaders and took a whirlwind tour of his ancestral homeland.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaí l, speaker of the Dail, parliament’s lower chamber, told Biden that Ireland has benefitted “immensely” from American investment, and noted that it goes both ways – Ireland is the ninth largest source of foreign direct investment in the US.
“Long may this bilateral investment continue,” Ó Fearghaíl said. He welcomed Biden “home” as he introduced him. Biden was the fourth US president to address the Irish parliament, after John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
For Biden, Ireland has been the backdrop for a discussion about his favorite themes, like dignity, “possibilities,” democracy – and poetry. He addressed parliament on what would have been the 84th birthday of his favorite poet, Seamus Heaney. Ó Fearghaíl gave Biden a signed copy of Heaney’s poems, and Heaney’s widow was present for the speech, watching as Biden quoted “The Cure at Troy.”