18 Nov 2020
A town in the heart of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is ready to welcome back a native son – Joe Biden, US President-elect.
Ballina in rugged County Mayo is where the next US President’s great-great-great-grandfather – Edward Blewitt – made the decision to emigrate to America during the Great Famine.
Decked out in the famous stars and stripes in anticipation of his success, and with a mural of Biden standing in the centre of the town, the President-elect’s Irish relatives and supporters led the local energetic but socially distanced celebrations as news of his election victory filtered through.
With Ballina twinned with Biden’s birthplace of Scranton, Pennsylvania, residents in the west of Ireland town are now confident that, when circumstances allow, their native son will return to his Irish home as President of the United States of America.
Often referencing poet Seamus Heaney in his speeches, the soon-to-be President is immensely proud of his Irish roots and has spoken about his heritage on numerous occasions, once saying that “Ireland will be written on my soul”.
During an official visit to Ireland in the last months of his term as US-Vice President, Mr Biden explored his family connections in Ballina and in County Louth on the east coast of the island, from where his great-grandfather, James Finnegan, emigrated as a child in 1850.
Returning to Mayo in 2017, he turned the sod on a hospice in Castlebar, the county’s first, which has a plaque honouring his son Beau, who died in 2015. “I don’t know why my family left here in the first place,” he said to much laughter at the time.
Ballina, County Mayo
Ireland's third-largest county, Mayo is renowned for being one of the most picturesque parts of the country. Blessed with over 500 km of the breath-taking Atlantic coastline, it is a great place to experience Irish tradition, adventure and wild natural beauty.
Achill Island typifies the wilderness feel of the west coast. Accessible by a land bridge, the soaring cliffs, pristine beaches and rich heritage make it the perfect Irish getaway.
An hour from Ballina lies Westport, one of Ireland’s most charming seaside towns, renowned for its traditional music, excellent food, great pubs and very warm welcome.
There is much to see and do around Westport including Ireland’s holy mountain, Croagh Patrick, which overlooks Clew Bay and its 365 islands, and Westport House, which was built and is still privately owned by direct descendants of the sixteenth-century Irish pirate queen, Grace O’Malley.
The Great Western Greenway in Mayo snakes along the Wild Atlantic Way, while notable historic centres to explore include the National Museum of Country Life near Castlebar.
The ruins of a number of castles dot the Mayo landscape, adding to the feeling of timelessness in this county. Every town and village has its own history and tales to tell, with Ballina now having quite the story to share with the world.
Keem Bay, Achill Island, County Mayo
Westport, County Mayo
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