BACKING BIDEN The Ballina Community Clean-Up Committee recently unveiled a mural of the Presidential candidate Joe Biden in the north Mayo capital. Pictured below the mural were relatives of Joe Biden, the Blewitt family, with members of the committee. Pic: John O'Grady
Arguably the most significant US election in modern history will be watched intently all around the world but in Knockmore and Ballina, it’s doubtful the Blewitt family will get much sleep tonight (Tuesday).
Democrat hopeful Joe Biden’s cousins in north Mayo have followed his political career closely for decades and now are watching anxiously as Biden remains the strong favourite to oust Donald Trump from the White House.
Laurita Blewitt, who travelled to the US in February to accompany her cousin Joe in the Democrat Primaries, has talked about little else but US politics this week.
“I’m anxiously hopeful that everything will work out well,” she told The Mayo News. “Right now you’re looking at all the polls and they’re in Joe’s favour but you never know with Trump.”
In normal times the Blewitts would be able to host an election party tonight but with Covid restrictions, it will be a different ball game. Laurita, who works as a fundraiser for Mayo Roscommon Hospice and has also recently started 'The Tommy and Hector Podcast with Laurita Blewitt,' does not plan on missing a minute of the results.
“I’m going to stay up. It is crap with Covid and the restrictions and all. Obviously you’d love to be going somewhere with as many people as you can have together. That’s gone out the window. We will have to be watching very closely and stay up as long as is humanely possible to hopefully see him cross the line.
“I wouldn’t want to go to bed thinking he is doing really well and waking up to some disappointing and devastating news. He is so far ahead in some polls … If he can win Florida on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, it will give us a good indication.
“You’ve seen Trump say he will declare victory early on, if he can. Hopefully it won’t come to that and it will be a landslide for Joe. Hopefully by Wednesday night we will be all celebrating.”
Joe Biden’s great-great-great grandfather Edward Blewitt worked as a land surveyor for Ordinance Survey, literally putting places like Ballina on the map. His great-great-great grandson is doing so metaphorically now.
Edward Blewitt, his wife Mary and their eight children left Ballina for the USA in 1850, after the Famine.
The Blewitts settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where the future presidential candidate was born nearly a century later.
Laurita first met Joe Biden in 2016 when he visited Ireland in his role as US vice president and they have forged a strong relationship since.
‘He loves Ireland’
Laurita and her brother Joe Blewitt were in the White House in 2017 when Mr Biden was presented with the Medal of Freedom from outgoing President Barack Obama while later that year, Laurita managed to get Mr Biden over to turn the sod for the Mayo Roscommon Hospice’s new facility in Castlebar.
Earlier this year Joe Biden introduced Laurita on stage in Nevada as ‘my Irish cousin’ and Laurita attests to Joe Biden’s love of Ireland.
“He’s absolutely enthralled with Ireland, he loves Ireland so much and he talks about his mother bringing him up with such strong Irish values, reminding him constantly of the Irish in him and his grandmother used to speak Irish to him so he is very much steeped in Irish traditions,” she said.
A former parliamentary assistant to John O’Mahony when he was a TD for Mayo, Laurita knows a thing or two about Irish politics and Irish elections but has learned a lot about the vagaries of US elections, swing states and the college vote.
She has stayed in constant contact with his election team since meeting them in February, sending best wishes on behalf of his Mayo cousins on Sunday. last She admits she has to pinch herself at the thought a cousin of theirs could be President of the USA next year.
“It’s bizarre. Sometimes you are watching it and you realise ‘Oh my God I can email this man right now and he will come back to me’. There is that side of it. You think it will be so exciting if he wins and how amazing it will be to know someone that high up in American politics. It’s absolutely fantastic.”
And, having forged such a close relationship, she is aghast at some of the tactics employed by the incumbent, Donald Trump.
“America needs someone stable at the helm. Trump is already talking about Joe Biden not being alive at the end of the four years. It is a bit comical coming from him, he’s not exactly a 50-year-old running for office either!
“The levels he goes to is horrible to watch and to think you know the person on the receiving end personally, you get really defensive at times.
“Fundamentally the difference is that Joe is a thoroughly decent human being, that’s the bottom line. He has huge empathy and dignity and respect for people.”