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US Vice President in Mayo this week


Neill O'Neill

As reported last week, Vice-President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, is due to arrive in Mayo on Wednesday, as part of his five day visit to Ireland. His exact itinerary remains a closely guarded secret but he will spend the night in the county and is likely to arrive and depart through Ireland West Airport in Knock, though this has not been confirmed by anybody. With security protocols and procedures for such a visit set at a level not usually seen in the county, The Mayo News has been asked not to publish specific details of accommodation and travel arrangements and times. The last time such a level of security accompanied any visitor here was when former US President Ronald Regan visited in 1984. He stayed at Ashford Castle.
Mr Biden arrives in Ireland today (Tuesday) for a five-day visit to the home of his Irish ancestors. The Vice-President’s trip includes visits to counties Louth and Mayo with his extended family where his ancestors, the Finnegans and the Blewitts, emigrated from during the Famine. The Vice-President’s great-great grandfather, Patrick Blewitt, was born in Garden Street, Ballina, in the early 1830s and left with members of his family for States in the 1840s. In Dublin the Garda policing plans for the Vice-President’s visit include round-the-clock security and traffic management in Phoenix Park where Mr Biden will stay in the US ambassador’s residence. The park will be closed to all traffic and pedestrians every night from 11pm until 6.30am during the Vice-President’s visit.

No announcement has been made as to what the plans will be in Mayo, but locals can expect similar disruptions and street closures when Mr Biden is around. It is known that he will visit Ballina and Westport, with rumours circulating that he will call to just about every landmark in Mayo. Of course there won’t be time to do all this, and some of the speculation is fuelled by a need to keep an element of guesswork as to his itinerary, for security reasons. In Westport, work taking place to enhance and beautify heretofore ignored parts of the town give a clue as to the potential movements of the Vice-President and his entourage. It has also been widely rumoured that Mr Biden will play golf with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Castlebar Golf Club.
Curious locals are bound to come out to see the sight of the Vice-Presidential motorcade when it tours the county, while the presence of Secret Service agents and a huge security and Garda presence will not go unnoticed before Mr Biden’s scheduled departure from Mayo on Thursday.