Joe Biden says he is ‘really not Irish’ because he doesn’t drink in latest gaffe
Joe Biden on Friday made an off-colour joke that he was “really not Irish” because he does not drink alcohol and his relatives in Ireland were not “in jail”, as he marked St Patrick’s Day.
The 80-year-old president, whose family emigrated from Ireland to America in the mid-1800s, made the gaffe as he hosted a Friends of Ireland luncheon at the US Capitol.
“I’ve been to Ireland many times, but not to actually look up, to find my actual family members. And there are so many - and they actually weren’t in jail,” Mr Biden said to muted laughs from the crowd as he recalled a visit to the republic in which he met his relatives.
“There’s still a place called Finnegan’s pub … that’s related to my family,” the president went on. “I’m the only Irishman you ever met, though, that’s never had a drink, so I’m OK. I’m really not Irish,” said Mr Biden, who is known to be teetotal.
He spent his earliest years surrounded by his mother’s Irish American family, the Finnegans, in the Irish-American stronghold of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Mr Biden, who often speaks of his Irish heritage and is fond of quoting Irish poets, used the occasion to declare March Irish-American heritage month. The White House even dyed the water of the South Lawn fountain green for the occasion.
Sporting a green tie and shamrocks for St Patrick’s Day, President Biden on Friday voiced his support for a recent economic accord affecting Ireland as he hosted the republic’s prime minister, taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a longstanding meetup scuttled by the Covid-19 pandemic the past two years.
Mr Varadkar presented the US president with a bowl of shamrocks, a tradition that began in 1952.
While the annual Washington tradition is about celebrating the historic bonds of Ireland and the US, Mr Biden also took time to reflect on the approaching 25th anniversary of the US-brokered Good Friday accord - the agreement that helped end sectarian violence that had raged for decades over the question of Northern Ireland unifying with Ireland or remaining part of the UK.
The president also underscored a more recent agreement, known as the Windsor Framework, that aims to ease tensions over Northern Ireland’s trading status in the aftermath of the UK’s exit from the European Union and to maintain the quarter century-old peace accord.
Mr Biden has said he plans to soon visit both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom, to mark the 25th anniversary of the big peace accord.