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Biden back in Mayo for hospice sod-turning

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BACK ON HOME SOIL  Former US Vice President Joe Biden is pictured with his relation Laurita Blewitt on his offical visit to Mayo last year. Mr Biden is back in the county this afternoon (Tuesday).

Áine Ryan

FORMER US Vice-President Joe Biden’s Co Mayo pedigree will be further confirmed when he is presented with a green and red county jersey on his return to the ‘ould sod’ today (Tuesday) to officiate at the launch of a new palliative care facility for the Mayo Roscommon Hospice. The sod-turning ceremony will take place at the Knockaphunta site, off the Westport Road, at 2.30pm.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, the Chief Executive of Mayo Roscommon Hospice, Martina Jennings said: “Former Vice-President Joe Biden made the commitment during his visit last year that he would support us and we are honoured and humbled that he will officiate. It is poignant for him because his son, Beau, passed away from cancer in 2015 and, moreover, he is a man who is all about family and community.”
She said that the new state-of-the art hospice is the culmination of a huge commitment by support groups and volunteers who have ‘worked so hard’ to raise funds and bring the project to this stage.
“The volunteers may not have the time but they have the heart. It is proof that when people come together as a community they make things happen,” Ms Jennings said.
She confirmed that work on the Castlebar project will start in November and is scheduled for completion in February 2019. The cost of this hospice and the one to be built later in Roscommon is projected to be €15 million.
“We have raised €10m and secured a bank loan for the balance. We will continue fundraising though to reduce the loan and for the €2m we need each year for palliative care throughout the community. The HSE will pay for the running costs of both hospices,” Ms Jennings explained.
She stressed it was important for the Government ‘to push through legislation that allowed charities to claim VAT back’.
Martina Jennings added: “The end of life deserves as much beauty, care and respect as the beginning of life.”
The new hospice building in Castlebar will encompass a 14-bed specialist in-patient palliative care facility as well as daycare facilities, offering the patients’ families support and therapies also. It will operate as a hub for community-based palliative care facilities, outpatient therapies and support services. The project was granted planning permission in 2015.
Mayo Roscommon Hospice has provided a hospice service ‘without walls’ for the last 24 years to over 13,500 patients and their families.

Ancestry
JOE Biden’s Co Mayo ancestry was well-documented during his visit in June 2016. He is related to Laurita Blewitt of Mayo Roscommon Hospice. His great-great-grandfather, Patrick Blewitt was born in the early 1830s in the Garden Street area of Ballina.

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