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Biden to explore his Irish lineage and meet with relatives on overseas trip

The president will visit County Louth, on the northeastern coast of Ireland, which was home to his maternal ancestors in the 19th century.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will spend time tracing his family history this week on a trip that includes stops in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Biden departed Tuesday for a trip that will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which ended 30 years of violent conflict in Northern Ireland. He landed Tuesday evening in Belfast, where he'll meet with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday. Sunak was among the officials who greeted Biden at Belfast International Airport.

Biden is expected to deliver remarks at Ulster University "marking tremendous progress" since the signing of the peace agreement in 1998, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday at the White House briefing.

"He’ll underscore the readiness of the United States to preserve those gains and support Northern Ireland’s vast economic potential to the benefit of all communities," said Kirby, who dismissed concerns about recent threats of violence in the country, saying Biden is comfortable making the trip.

Kirby added, "President Biden cares deeply about Northern Ireland and has a long history of supporting peace and prosperity there."

After his speech in Belfast, Biden will travel to County Louth, on the northeastern coast of Ireland, which was home to his maternal ancestors in the 19th century. Biden's great-grandparents James Finnegan and Catherine Roche lived in the area before Finnegan immigrated with his family to the U.S., settling in Seneca County, New York, when he was 9 years old, a White House official said.

On Thursday, Biden is expected to meet with Ireland’s president, Michael Higgins, and taoiseach, or prime minister, Leo Varadkar, and address a joint session of the Irish Parliament, Kirby said. That evening, Biden will attend a banquet at Dublin Castle.

Biden is also set to visit County Mayo, on Ireland's northwestern coast, where more of his ancestors, the Blewitt family, are from.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 17, 2022, US President Joe Biden speaks during the annual St. Patrick's Day luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. - When a British journalist once asked Joe Biden for an interview, the US president responded with a joke.
"The BBC? I'm Irish," Biden said, smiling, as he walked past the reporter, in an undated video that went viral on social media. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden speaks at the annual St. Patrick's Day luncheon on Capitol Hill on March 17, 2022.Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images file

"He will meet with relatives, visit places of significance to the Finnegans of County Louth and the Blewitts of County Mayo and discuss how a fierce pride in being Irish and a value system that says everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect have been passed down to each generation," a White House official said.

The visit to County Mayo is expected to include a stop at a genealogical research center. Biden will deliver remarks at St. Muredach’s Cathedral, where his great-great-grandfather Patrick Blewitt was baptized in April 1832.

Biden is scheduled to return to the U.S. on Saturday. Asked by reporters Monday whether his trip would include a meeting with King Charles, Kirby indicated that Biden spoke to him by phone last week and informed him that first lady Jill Biden would represent the U.S. at his coronation in May.