The political implications of Biden’s Irish heritage

The most famous Irish-American is probably former president John F. Kennedy. The most famous Irish-American living today is current president Joe Biden, the second Irish-Catholic to be elected to the office. Biden often speaks warmly of his mother’s close-knit Irish family.


And Biden has not been shy about politicizing this heritage, famously rejecting a BBC reporter angling for an interview, saying “The BBC? I’m Irish!”

Biden will celebrate his heritage this year by hosting the Irish Taoiseach (or “leader” in Gaelic) Leo Varadkar for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the White House, restarting a tradition interrupted by the pandemic.


He will also visit Northern Ireland for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April, the peace treaty that stopped decades of civil war between Protestants and Catholics. Biden personally reached out to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last month, telling him to prioritize keeping an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland during post-Brexit trade negotiations. Free travel between the two countries was an essential stipulation of the peace treaty.

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