Biden proclamation paves way for month’s focus on Irish-American affairs

Launch of heritage month precedes virtual St Patrick’s Day celebrations due to Covid

US president Joe Biden speaks to reporters outside  the White House in Washington, DC, at the weekend. Photograph:  Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty

US president Joe Biden speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington, DC, at the weekend. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty

 

US president Joe Biden has signed a proclamation officially marking the start of Irish-American Heritage Month, paving the way for a month-long focus on Irish-American affairs in the United States.

In the proclamation issued by the White House this evening, Mr Biden says that, “since before the founding of our Nation, Irish immigrants have arrived on our shores with an unyielding spirit of determination that has helped define America’s soul and shape our success across generations”.

He also references his own family – the Blewitts who emigrated from Co Mayo during the Great Famine, and the Finnegans from Co Louth.

Recalling that his grandparents, Ambrose Finnegan and Geraldine Blewitt, met and married in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1909, he says they “passed on to my mother, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, a pride and a passion that runs through the bloodstream of all Irish-Americans”.

The issuance of the annual proclamation has been undertaken by US presidents since 1991. Mr Biden, who last visited Ireland in 2016 in the final year of his vice-presidency, is the first president with Irish-Catholic heritage since John F Kennedy, though other presidents, such as Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, also had Irish heritage.

‘Hard times’

“The story of the Irish the world over is one of people who have weathered their fair share of hard times, but have always come out strong on the other side,” Mr Biden states in the proclamation.

“The fabric of modern America is woven through with the green of the Emerald Isle. This month, we celebrate the sacrifices and contributions that generations of Irish Americans have made to build a better America, and we renew the bonds of friendship that will forever tie Ireland and the United States.”

The issue of the proclamation on the first day of March comes ahead of this year’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations, which will be taking place virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Negotiations are ongoing between Dublin and Washington regarding the precise format of the day, with the traditional presentation of a bowl of shamrock likely to take place in some virtual form.

Mr Biden is on Monday holding his second bilateral “virtual” meeting with a head of state – Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. It follows a virtual meeting with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau last week.

The White House has said there are currently no plans for Mr Biden to travel overseas. Earlier on Monday, press secretary Jen Psaki said a decision had not been made as to whether the president would travel to Cornwall for the G7 summit in June, as had been expected. “In terms of whether or not he will travel, we haven’t made a determination on that at this point,” she said, adding the decision will be “related to Covid”.