Joe Biden has come and gone, in a short visit that will not soon be forgotten. The main reason for the event was the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The first day of his three-day trip began at Ulster University, where he gave a speech in which he unsurprisingly re-affirmed his commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and peace in Northern Ireland. The most notable part of the speech was his voicing support for the Windsor Framework, which he said: “addresses the practical realities of Brexit and is an essential step to ensuring the hard-won peace of the Good Friday Agreement is preserved and strengthened”. The speech also made reference to the fact new investment from the US into the province required political stability, a nod to the fact that Stormont is still down after the DUP pulled down the government over the Irish Sea Border.
In an attempted outreach to Unionists, against an air of a perceived Nationalist bias, Biden made sure to mention the contribution of the Ulster-Scots to America, praising “Men born in Ulster were among those who signed the Declaration of Independence in the United States, pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honour for freedom’s cause.”. Moderate Unionism welcomed this gesture, while hardline Unionism will no doubt find a way to bite the hand that feeds and further alienate itself. This part of the visit was not without the gaffes he has become known for, the most notable being him somehow mixing up the New Zealand rugby team The All Blacks, with the Black and Tans. He also called Micheál Martin a proud son of Louth, even though he is from Cork.
Biden entering the Dáil received what appeared to be the warmest welcome we’ve given any foreign leader since Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979. Indeed much of the visit felt almost like the equivalent of a visit from the Pope, but for the Liberal Age. A chance to go all out in showing off our pieties. Mainstream media went all out, firing off article after article on every last detail on Biden’s Irish connections. Only the far-left People Before Profit attempted to put a dampener on the celebrations, spying an opportunity to get attention by boycotting the Dáil speech.
Fintan O’Toole, the High Priest of Dereks, contrasted the Biden visit with the visit of JFK, saying Biden represented the Ireland we were – Catholic, ethnically proud, bearing a love of one’s heritage, with the Ireland we are now, the Progressive Ireland Fintan has worked so hard to create. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said, “President Biden, you are the most Irish of all American presidents, not because of what is written on your family tree, but because of what is enshrined in your heart and soul.”.
The Dail Cean Co, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl used his speaking time to say the Ireland Biden was visiting was a “multicultural, progressive nation, benefiting enormously from an inflow of immigrants who have arrived on our shores from across the world. They enrich our society and help us grow our economy.”. Liberal pieties successfully revered. Praise be to the immigrants, and to the economy.
Indeed, It felt like Biden and our own politicians were singing from different hymn sheets. As our own politicians and media let loose in showing off our new found Liberalism and emphasising as much as possible that we are multicultural, Biden ended up being the one making references and offering praise towards ancestral ties to Ireland, and Ballina specifically, calling himself “Mayo Joe, son of Ballina”.
He regularly spoke about how enormously proud he was of his heritage, and how much he cherished being Irish. In a moment that was genuinely sweet, Biden received a brick from a fireplace that is the last surviving piece of his ancestral home in Ballina. At times it almost felt as though he was explicitly warned by his advisors not to use the phrase “Irish Race”. It is quite a depressing twist of fate when the Commander-in-Chief of Globalism is more ethnically conscious and proud of his ancestral ties to his homeland than every single one of our own establishment leaders.
It was notable that Biden visited Knock, the Catholic shrine and pilgrimage site for Catholics. At Knock, he met a Catholic Priest and ex-US Army chaplain Fr Frank O’Grady, now working at the shrine who gave the last rites to his son Beau. They prayed a decade of the Rosary together, and there was a quiet period of prayer. The meeting was apparently so emotional that it brought Biden to tears. It is unclear how much Biden knows about the levels of participation in the Catholic faith here today, but it seems he still feels that Catholicism and Ireland go together. How he squares this on-the-surface strong personal faith with the fact he is the most senior politician in his country ensuring Abortion remains available, only he and God can truly know.
It has become quite difficult to tell what the average Irish person thinks these days. On the one hand, we are seeing the rising tides of populism from both the Left and the Right, and increasing dissatisfaction with the status quo. We see from the Liberal mainstream and the Left a disdain for Irish Americans’ misty-eyed romance for their homeland.
But then we also see people willing to take a day off work to stand on a bridge and watch Biden’s motorcade go by. We see large crowds genuinely having the time of their lives watching Biden walk out to the Dropkick Murphys. We see every single Irish trope, cliché, or example of Paddywhackery we’ve ever known wheeled out unironically by our politicians, journalists and the general public. Twitter users reacted with glee at Biden meeting former footballer Paul McGrath, and that he said: “Mayo for Sam” (meaning one of his advisors told him to say “Mayo for Sam” in his speech). Many elements of his visit were much more Irish-American than Irish. In a recent Unherd article, Newstalk libtard Kieran Cuddihy accurately predicted that not only would we go along with the stereotypes, but we would lean into them, which we did in spades.
This echoes the recent uproar here over a Saturday Night Live skit, where 2 comedians acted as Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson from the Banshees of Inisheerin. The skit involved the pair being interviewed and speaking in unintelligible accents, to the response of “Wow, and they haven’t even started drinking yet!”. Twitter and Opinion Journalism made clear their outrage at the use of old Irish tropes as a point of mockery, crying racism. This is despite the fact the film it was reacting to, Banshee’s of Inisheerin, was again wheeling out every auld Irish trope in the book, this time to the delight of the same people most likely. This film received universal praise from Twitter and Opinion Journalism, and having strong popularity among the general Irish public.
A cartoonist from the British TImes portrayed Biden in a green leprechaun-style suit with a pint of Guinness doing Irish dancing, which triggered an uproar among Ireland’s Twitterati, who claimed it was a racist cartoon, and many mentions of Punch Magazine were made. Yet how can anyone try to pull the old complaint of British racism against the Irish, when pretty much the entire country is presenting us to the world in this caricatured form? If someone in another country had never heard of the Irish, and this visit was their first impression, what would you expect them to conclude about us? People complained the cartoon portrayed him with a Guinness when he is a teetotal, but we brought him to a pub on his first night here. Can you imagine the reaction here if anyone on the British Right-wing of politics with Irish ancestry uttered the phrase “I may be Irish but I’m not stupid“?
Ultimately, it feels like the Irish of this age have no idea what to think about our identity. We are now at the completion of a long transformation from a homogenous, religious & agricultural country, into the Modern Ireland we know today, it feels as though the average person doesn’t know what they are. The Ireland shown off this week was that of an Ireland that is fading away, of an old Ireland, with a very clear culture & identity, that everyone shared in, and was unique to Ireland, and admired and celebrated the world over.
The Ireland of today is filled with contradictions. As the writer Angela Nagle has written: “Talk to an educated Irish person in a global city today, and you will quickly discover that they hold the twin ideologies of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland: a vague sentimental remnant of the Irish ethno-nationalism of the revolutionary period and the internationalist and multicultural open society values of Google.” Most of the adults today can still most likely remember the old Ireland, or at least remember when it felt like the old Ireland was still there in their childhood, even if it was already gone. But as the years and decades go by, new generations will only have memories of the new Ireland, of a postmodern, secularised country, attempting to fill the god-shaped hole in their hearts with a rootless and Americanised multi-culturalism. And this new Ireland will never trigger the same attachment for the Ireland that was attempted to be shown off and celebrated with this visit, regardless of the tackiness and Paddywackery throughout.