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Family affair for Blewitts of Ballina

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STARS AND STRIPES Members of the Blewitt family, third cousins of US President Joe Biden, celebrating while watch his inauguration ceremony in Washington at their home in Knockmore last Wednesday afternoon. Brendan Blewitt is pictured with his daughter Laurita, his son Joe and daughter-in-law Deirdre and their children Emily, Darragh and Lauren.  Pic: Conor McKeown

Laurita Blewitt talks to The Mayo News about how she and her family spent Inauguration Day

Áine Ryan

HIS inauguration speech from a podium at the Capitol Building on Wednesday last surely sent a beacon of hope around the world but for one Mayo family it was deeply personal and moving. So it is no surprise that President Joe Biden’s cousins, the Blewitts of Knockmore, near Ballina, felt strong emotions amid their celebrations. It is no surprise either that Laurita Blewitt sent a video message to 1600, Pennsylvania Avenue. If not for the Covid-19 restrictions, she would have been there celebrating with her distant cousin and his extended family.  
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, Laurita Blewitt encapsulated the broad humanity of the 46th President of the United States of America: “What I most like about President Biden is that he is not a hypocrite. He embraces everyone’s choices, he doesn’t feel like he is someone who should tell others how to live their lives. He loves his family so much and they are his number one priority. He talks so much about affording everyone dignity and respect. He swore in over 1,000 of his staff last Wednesday and said if he hears any of them treating anyone with disrespect he will fire them on the spot. He is very connected to his Irish heritage and talks about how important it was to his mother and as a result to him too. The President is also filled with empathy, he has life experience and has personally seen how trauma in your life can form you.”
Laurita watched the inauguration with her Dad Brendan and older brother Joe and his family at their home in Knockmore.

Emotional and proud
“It was a very emotional day, for me and for most Irish people too. So many people have been in touch with me to say it was a proud day for them. I know you will have naysayers too and people who won’t agree with his policies but I think the overriding feeling for me and the family was how proud we are of him. The day was mixed with different emotions, I cried when I watched the swearing in and his address and for the rest of the day my heart was bursting with pride,” she said.   
Blewitt added: “I find myself doing a double take when I see Joe on TV and it says US President. It is surreal to personally know the now leader of the free world. I don’t think it will properly sink in until I am in his company again and see all the fanfare around him.”
Asked about what will underpin his presidency and, in particular, undocumented emigrants, she said: “He understands the struggles of people who have had to leave their own country and set up life in America. He knows all about his ancestors leaving Ireland and making the then long journey to the US. He realises that people want to have and live the ‘American dream’. He will be sympathetic to the undocumented and having a strong Irish contingent in his proposed government should be helpful. It’ll be definitely good for Irish people and particularly good if you’re from Mayo!”

Bond
Clearly Laurita created quite a bond with him since his visit to Mayo in 2016, when he was Vice-President during the second Barack Obama presidency. Indeed, he returned to his ancestral county to turn the sod for the Mayo Hospice Foundation building in Castlebar in September 2017, at her invitation.  
Blewitt went on the campaign trail with him and his entourage during February 2020 attending events in Los Angeles, South Carolina and Nevada, where he invited her on stage introducing her as ‘his Irish cousin’.  
“I sent him a video message on Wednesday morning and I’ve been in touch with them a lot over the last few weeks and months. I made great relations since I joined the campaign trail last February. I cannot wait for him to come back to visit us as the President. He is looking forward to coming to see the Mayo Hospice since he was the one who turned the sod for it in 2017.” Laurita will be there to welcome him again in her role as Donor Relations Manager for the Mayo-Roscommon Hospice.