The president, while speaking at the annual Friends of Ireland gathering, recalled visiting Ireland, saying he had been to the country several times but that he went on one particular occasion to find his “actual family members.”
“There were so many, and they actually weren’t in jail,” Biden quipped.
The president said he spent nearly a week in Ireland before noting some of his relatives, the Finnegans, were from County Louth and “if you go to County Louth there’s still a place called Finnegans pub, which is, I bet that’s related to my family.”
Biden, who has said he does not drink, added jokingly, “I’m the only Irishman you’ve ever met though that’s never had a drink, so I’m okay. I’m really not Irish.”
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The president’s remarks came during a traditional lunch that dates back to the 1980s that started with President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill.
This year’s luncheon featured House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, as well as former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), and former Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), who now serves as U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland.
Biden and McCarthy, both of Irish descent, made numerous references to their backgrounds during their remarks. McCarthy recited an Irish blessing while Biden quoted poet Seamus Heaney.
“I, like all of you, take pride in my Irish ancestry, and as long as I can remember it’s been sort of part of my soul, how I’ve been raised,” Biden said.
While the event was lighthearted, both leaders foreshadowed the anticipated debt ceiling fight, and McCarthy pointed to the “special” relationship between Reagan and O’Neill as evidence that the modern-day president-speaker pair could find common ground despite their current positions being at odds.
“When they had fiscal problems, they found a way to get together,” McCarthy said. “They would always break bread, share some Guinness, and fight hard for their own personal beliefs, and at the end of the day America was stronger for that, and it’s unique that 40 years later we’re back here again.”
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