Biden returns to ancestral roots on visit to west of Ireland
US President Joe Biden has returned to his ancestral roots as he embarked on a visit to the west of Ireland to round off his four-day trip to the island.
The American leader touched down at the airport in Knock, Co Mayo, on Friday afternoon.
The visit – which comes after his trip to Co Louth on Wednesday where some of his ancestry has been traced to – tracks the other side of Mr Biden’s family tree.
The president has repeatedly spoken with passion about his Irish heritage and described addressing the country’s parliament on Thursday as “one of the great honours of my career”.
Mr Biden was met by various dignitaries including transport minister Eamon Ryan and Mayo TD Dara Calleary at Ireland West Airport, more commonly known as Knock airport.
The president spent a few minutes on the tarmac as he and his sister Valerie Biden Owens were greeted by the dignitaries.
“It’s good to be back,” he said as he began to shake hands with those there to greet him.
The final day of Mr Biden’s trip – which former taoiseach Enda Kenny said was the longest presidential visit to the island of Ireland ever – will culminate in a public address.
The speech will take place at St Muredach’s Cathedral, which has a direct link to the president’s ancestors.
Mr Biden’s great-great-great grandfather Edward Blewitt sold 27,000 bricks to the cathedral in 1827, which helped buy tickets for himself and his family to sail to America decades later in 1851.
Ahead of the public address, Mr Biden toured the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock – a Catholic pilgrimage site that has been visited by popes, most recently by Pope Francis in 2018.
The president was greeted by cheering crowds who lined the streets outside the Knock shrine, with some waving Ireland, US and Mayo flags.
Inside the basilica, Mr Biden shared a joke with parish priest Father Richard Gibbons, before gazing upon some of the artwork.
The president touched the apparition wall as part of his tour before Fr Gibbons accompanied him into the Apparition Chapel for some moments of quiet reflection.
The president is also set to visit the North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Centre’s family history research unit.
It is believed Mr Biden will also make a private visit to the Mayo Roscommon Hospice in Castlebar that is dedicated to his son Beau who died of brain cancer in 2015.