Joe Biden’s repeated invocations of his Irish heritage have earned him plenty of fans — in Ireland, where hundreds lined up in the town of Dundalk on Wednesday to catch a glimpse of the president.
Among the throngs of supporters who came to watch the US president pass through the city were Aoudhan McGuiness, 40, and his wife Linda. “It’s a momentous event for the city,” the mortgage advisor said.
“He’s doing better here than he is in America,” interrupted his wife Linda, 39, who owns a dental lab and follows Biden’s struggling approval ratings on Fox and CNN cable networks.
Both commute to work in Northern Ireland – a crossing made more difficult when British soldiers lived in the city, in an area that has changed in the 25 years since the Belfast/Good Friday deal that marks Biden here between visits to distant relatives by .
“It’s a new world compared to that, we don’t want to go back to it,” she said.
“He’s doing better here than he is in America,” joked Linda McGuinness, who braved the cold and rain to catch a glimpse of Biden, along with her husband Aoudhan and 10-year-old son Pearse
Biden’s fans ran from the very young — a mother delivered her 16-month-old baby — to the elderly, with an 89-year-old grandmother receiving two kisses from the 80-year-old president.
A younger Biden backer across the street the Windsor pub and restaurant was Rebecca Lennon, 12, holding a handmade sign that read ‘Howaya Joe?’
“It would be more accurate to say I’m freezing cold,” she joked during the long wait for the president.
She was one of hundreds queuing outside the pub where Biden has a Finnigan family connection, on his mother’s side, though Lennon grew impatient at times.
“What’s so good about Irish food that he has to stop at every restaurant?” she moaned when Biden made an unexpected stop at the Food House across town. (He bought sweets, paid cash and “talked a lot about his Irish background,” said the ownerR).
Rebecca Lennon, 12, held a handmade sign reading “Howaya Joe?”
“If he has a reservation and he doesn’t show up, he’ll be charged anyway,” joked Ciarra Lennon, left
“I want a selfie with Joe Biden!” said Kayla McCardle Stokes, 16(r)
Biden gave pub owner Donal McGeough a blue baseball cap with the seal of the US president. Biden, who does not drink, had no Guinness
Former Irish rugby union player Rob Kearney in the pub after Biden left
People lined the streets of Dundalk to see Biden
People took photos and videos of Biden’s motorcade
Biden fans braved frigid temperatures and rain to catch a glimpse of Biden and his motorcade. Some said they had to wait for hours
The delay was not well received in Dundalk.
“If he has a reservation and he doesn’t show up, he’ll still be charged,” joked Rebecca’s mother, Ciarra Lennon, who held an Irish flag for the occasion.
She came with three children, her brother and her husband Finton Hanratty, who tried to see a US president once before – Bill Clinton.
“Clinton came and we waited in the pub for five hours,” he complained. His reviews of Biden were positive.
‘He’s doing really well. We weren’t too fond of the last man,” he says in reference to Donald Trump.
People in the crowd screamed as Biden’s armored limousine, “the Beast,” drove by. A helicopter hovered above her head. Many ascended to catch a glimpse.
“He’s going to have a pint in Windsor – that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard,” said Kayla McCardle Stokes, 16, a college student.
She was wrong: the tea total Biden does not drink. But on the spot, she was still overwhelmed.
“I’m so excited that Joe Biden is here – the president of America and he’s here. I love America so much,” she gushed. Then she shouted to friends, “I want a selfie with Joe Biden!”
Seeing an American president in the flesh is not so new here. Sharon and Raymond Kelly of Dundalk saw Clinton during his visit in 2000.
“It was great, very exciting – a day we will always remember,” says the bank employee.
But when asked who he would choose if he could only pick one to see, it was the 42nd president that captivated her the most. It would be Clinton. ‘More charismatic’, says Raymond, who works in construction.
“It’s not every day they come to Ireland and come five feet from us,” she added.
Nessa Dooley also fondly remembered a Clinton connection. She brought along her 16-month-old Scarlett, who kept warm in a thick pink onesie coat.
“I was a little girl when Bill Clinton came along… It’s always exciting to see the President of the United States in a small town in Ireland,” she says.
The shivering and curious outsiders could not enter the cozy Windsor, where owner Donal McGeough was presented with a blue baseball cap with the seal of the US president by Biden. “It won’t work out,” he said proudly.
In the pub, Biden gave a speech in which he talked about his Irish roots. In the room were son Hunter Biden, sister Valerie Biden Owens, Irish Tánaiste Michael Martin (the former Toiseach), and the US ambassador to Ireland — not to mention Finnegans and Kearneys who may be distant relatives of the president.
Unlike many who poured into the establishment after his departure, Biden had no Guinness.
The owner’s elderly mother was served something else: presidential kisses—two of them.
‘She has a few. She got one when he came in. And on the way back he stopped to say hello to her. They have a lot in common — you know she’s 89,” McGeough said. She gave birth to 10 children, has 37 grandchildren and 70 great-grandchildren. McGeough did not learn of the presidential visit until Monday.
Biden also received high marks from former Irish rugby union player Rob Kearney, a distant relative – though Biden made a blunder when he said the player “smacked the Black and Tans” – who apparently confused the New Zealand All Blacks with the British Black and Tans deployed during the Irish War of Independence.
“Great to have him back home – he’s very Irish in every way and we’re very proud to have him here,” he said after signing a shirt.