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Joe Biden to be sworn in as US President today amid high security following Capitol riots

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event in Delaware earlier this month. Picture by Matt Slocum, Associated Press

Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States today in an inauguration unlike any other in American history.

The event, which in normal circumstances would have attracted huge crowds, will instead only have a small, socially distanced audience in Washington D.C. due to the coronavirus pandemic. The disease has so far killed almost 400,000 people in the US.

The US Capitol is also on high alert after pro-Trump supporters stormed the building in a deadly attack earlier this month in which five people were killed. More than 100 people have so far been arrested, the FBI has said.

READ MORE: Joe Biden's first act - orders on coronavirus pandemic, climate and immigration

The city centre is essentially on lockdown with streets blocked, high fencing installed and tens of thousands of National Guard and other law enforcement officers stationed around the area.

President Donald Trump has refused to attend the inauguration, the first time a sitting president has not attended since Andrew Johnson in 1869, although Vice President Mike Pence will be there as well as other former presidents.

President Trump trumpeted his administration’s accomplishments and wished his successor luck in a farewell video as he spent his final full day in office preparing to issue a flurry of pardons in a near-deserted White House, surrounded by the extraordinary security presence outside.

“This week we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous,” Mr Trump said in the video farewell address, released by the White House less than 24 hours before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“We extend our best wishes. And we also want them to have luck — a very important word.”

Mr Trump, who spent months trying to delegitimise Mr Biden’s win with baseless allegations of mass voter fraud, repeatedly referred to the “next administration”, but declined to utter Mr Biden’s name.

National Guard soldiers walk out of the U.S. Capitol, on Saturday as security is increased ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Picture by Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

Mr Trump in his address tried to cast his presidency as a triumph for everyday people as he highlighted what he sees as his top achievements, including efforts to normalise relations in the Middle East, the development of coronavirus vaccinations and the creation of a new Space Force.

And he tried to defend the endless controversies that have consumed the last four years as justified.

“As president, my top priority, my constant concern, has always been the best interests of American workers and American families,” he said.

“I did not seek the easiest course; by far, it was actually the most difficult.

“I did not seek the path that would get the least criticism.

“I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices because that’s what you elected me to do.”

Mr Trump also made clear that he has no plans of going quietly into the night, telling his supporters that, as he prepares “to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning.

“There’s never been anything like it.”

Mr Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as president and vice president shortly after noon US Eastern Time (5pm Irish time).

The traditional inaugural balls will not be held because of the pandemic. Mr Biden will instead take part in a television event called "Celebrating America".

The inauguration will attract some of the biggest names in US entertainment.

Irish concert violinist Patricia Treacy will play during a private Mass for Mr Biden and his family before his inauguration.

Ms Treacy from Blackrock, Co Louth, has played for the president-elect several times, including when he visited his ancestral home in Ballina, Co Mayo, in 2016.

She was also asked to perform at some of Mr Biden's rallies in Chicago and other cities.

“This is a once in a life time opportunity to be able to perform for the inaugural mass for the president-elect and his amazing family which I have become very close to," she said.

“I am hugely honoured to be apart of this momentous historical occasion.”

Only Mr Biden's immediate family are expected to attend the Mass.

Afterwards, Mr Biden and his family will make their way to the Capitol for the inauguration.

Country star Garth Brooks, an artist with huge popularity across Ireland, will perform as part of the swearing-in ceremony.

Brooks said his performance is not a political statement but a "statement of unity".

"This is kind of how I get to serve this country," he added.

Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda will recite a classical work during the event, joining musicians including Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato and John Legend at the ceremony.

Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem as Mr Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris are sworn in to office, with Jennifer Lopez also giving a musical performance.

Later, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute prime-time TV special celebrating Mr Biden's inauguration.

- The inauguration will be broadcast live on RTÉ One from 3.30pm and on BBC One from 4pm today

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