Irish locals show their colors in Biden’s ancestral home

1 / 2
Pedestrians read an information board beneath a mural of US Presidential candidate Joe Biden, in his ancestral home of Ballina, north west Ireland, on October 7, 2020. (AFP)
2 / 2
Joe Biden’s third cousin Joe Blewitt — a local plumber — decorated his van with a tongue-in-cheek reference to the campaign: “Joe Biden for the White House and Joe Blewitt for your house.” (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 23 October 2020

Irish locals show their colors in Biden’s ancestral home

  • Biden’s family roots run deep in Ireland, with a heritage described as “roughly five-eighths Irish” by genealogist Megan Smolenyak
  • Ten percent of Americans claim Irish heritage — a 31-million-strong bloc vastly larger than the five-million population of Ireland itself

BALLINA, Ireland: Thousands of miles east of the White House in Ireland, a pop-art portrait of US presidential candidate Joe Biden towers over his ancestral hometown of Ballina, County Mayo.
In the town on Ireland’s rugged Atlantic coast, the Democrat’s distant relatives are thrilled to have one of their own bidding for America’s highest office.
“Obviously we’re 100 percent behind Joe Biden,” Laurita Blewitt, the former vice president’s third cousin, told AFP.
“We’ve got that family connection and we’ve got that friendship and relationship with him,” the 37-year-old said.
Biden’s family roots run deep in Ireland, with a heritage described as “roughly five-eighths Irish” by genealogist Megan Smolenyak.
She has traced his lineage to east-coast County Louth and Ballina — a town of 10,000 people, which is dotted with brightly colored shopfronts and bisected by the River Moy.
In 1851, Biden’s great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt joined the legions of Irish fleeing famine and poverty for a fresh start in New York.
The mural was raised by a band of locals last month, and Ballina is twinned with Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Biden was born in 1942.
The 77-year-old politician has visited twice — first in 2016 when crowds turned out to see president Barack Obama’s deputy.
In 2017 he came back and turned the first sod for a new regional hospice — a cause near to his heart after his son Beau’s death from cancer two years earlier.
Biden wrote that when he dies, “northeast Pennsylvania will be written on my heart.”
“But Ireland will be written on my soul.”
He is mining a rich tradition of American statesmen touting Irish heritage.
In the 20th century, John F. Kennedy was most closely tied to the “Emerald Isle,” and had to overcome anti-Irish, anti-Catholic prejudice to win the White House.
But others including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have all claimed ancestral links to Ireland.
Ten percent of Americans claim Irish heritage — a 31-million-strong bloc vastly larger than the five-million population of Ireland itself.
Those links helped give Washington an intermediary role in resolving the 30-year “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, a sectarian conflict that killed 3,500 in Ireland and the British province itself, before it largely ended in 1998.
Lately, Britain’s Brexit withdrawal from the European Union has threatened the cohesion promised by Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement.
US politicians have stepped in, warning London that a post-Brexit UK-US trade pact could be at risk if the peace is undermined.
Their alarm has reportedly been stoked by energetic briefing by the Irish embassy in Washington.
“The connections between Ireland and the US are incredibly strong,” said Ballina local councillor Mark Duffy.
“It is that soft power,” he added. “Ireland does definitely punch above its weight on the international stage.”


TWITTER POLL: Trump did more for Middle East peace than predecessors, poll respondents say

Updated 28 November 2020

TWITTER POLL: Trump did more for Middle East peace than predecessors, poll respondents say

  • Half of respondents say they believe Trump was good for peace in the Middle East
  • Barack Obama received less than 30 percent of the vote

DUBAI: Nearly half of all respondents to an Arab News Twitter poll say they believe Donald Trump has done more for peace in the Middle East than the three presidents who served before him.

The poll, that received 1,189 votes saw Trump receive 49.7 percent of the vote, while Barack Obama scored 27.2 percent.

Bill Clinton received 19.9 percent of the vote while George W Bush got only 3.2 percent.

Trump ran his previous election campaign saying that he would no longer take America into any more wars that did not immediately impact the US – although he did order the assassination of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in January, 2020.

But the outgoing US president has been widely praised for his work in brokering the Abraham Accord that brought the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain.

Meanwhile Barack Obama was criticized for failing to bring troops back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

He was also criticized for his decision not to take military action against Syria in 2012 after the regime used chemical weapons against civilian populations.

 

 

In September 1993 Bill Clinton oversaw the signing of the Oslo Accords between Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat and the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The deal was hoped would see the Palestinians regain some of the land claimed by the Israelis, and also enabled them to become self-governing.

But the deal was short lived and less than a decade later the new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was refusing to concede any further territory.

In his last year in office Clinton came close to arranging a final peace settlement, but failed, largely Clinton said – because of Arafat’s reluctance.

The President has previously spoken of a telephone conversation he had with Arafat in his last three days in office in which Arafat told him: “You are a great man.”

Clinton said he replied: “ The hell I am. I’m a colossal failure and you made me one.”

Prior to his election after Clinton, George W Bush had voiced his desire to unseat Saddam Hussein as ruler of Iraq.

He followed through on this when he drew up the Axis of Evil – the countries that he deemed were a threat to America following the 9/11 terror attacks that saw two passenger jets flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York, and a third into the Pentagon, killing thousands.

Shortly after the attacks Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and then the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In the latter Saddam Hussein was beaten and later captured. He was put on trial and sentenced to death by hanging – Iraq remains in a state of unrest.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan President Trump has ordered the withdrawal of even more troops after two decades of war.

Now take our new poll: