President Joe Biden is heading to Ireland this week to strengthen diplomatic ties, as well as pay homage to his Irish heritage.

One stop on the trip includes the town of Ballina, where “his great-great grandfathers left for the United States in the 1850.” He made a stop in Ballina when he was vice president in 2016 and visited distant cousin Joe Blewitt, The Associated Press reported.

“He said, ‘I’m going to come back into Ballina.’ And sure to God he’s going to come back into Ballina,” Blewitt told AP. “His Irish roots are really deep in his heart.”

Biden is first Irish Catholic president to visit Ireland since Kennedy

The last time a president with this much Irish heritage visited the country was John F. Kennedy in the 1960s, per The New York Times.

“I think it’s fair to say that Biden is the most Irish of U.S. presidents, except maybe for Kennedy,” Lynne Kelleher, author of a book about Ireland and the White House, told the Times. “His interest in Ireland is very genuine.”

Biden’s trip is not just about family business. He will be in meetings to “shore up trade and the Anglo-Irish peace deal of 1998,” according to the Times.

What diplomacy meetings with Biden have in Ireland?

View Comments

His trip will start in Belfast, Northern Ireland — marking the “25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to 30 years of sectarian violence on the island known as ‘The Troubles,’” ABC News reported.

He will visit Ireland and Northern Ireland during the trip — the first time a president has visited the regions since the U.K. left the European Union. Ireland is a sovereign nation and continues to belong to the EU, whereas Northern Ireland is part of the U.K. and is now not a part of it, per ABC News.

The region has experienced some tension recently because of the U.K.’s exit from the EU. Part of the post-Brexit Withdrawal Agreement “effectively established a trade border in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” according to CNBC.

“Whilst it’s positive in many ways — particularly on movement of food and medicines between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it really removes a lot of the frictions — it doesn’t deal with all the problems of the Northern Ireland protocol, so I’m afraid it’s unfinished business,” Theresa Villiers, former U.K. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, told CNBC.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.