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Councillors determined to bring Biden to Ballina


AMONG HIS OWN New US President Joe Biden is pictured with then Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a crowd of Ballina locals on his last visit to the north Mayo capital back in 2016.  Pic: Neill O’Neill

Oisín McGovern

Ballina Municipal District Councillors have reiterated their intention to invite newly elected US President Joe Biden to officially visit Ballina.
Speaking at the monthly Municipal District meeting – which was held on the same day as Biden’s inauguration – councillors spoke highly of the new president, whose great-great-great grandfather Edward Blewitt hailed from the north Mayo town.
The meeting – which was held on Microsoft Teams – was also attended by Paige Cognetti, the mayor of Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, which is twinned with Ballina.
Mayor Cognetti said that Scranton City Council would begin to work on a proposal for a 2023 visit that would be submitted to the White House, adding that it would have ‘tremendous support’ within the city of Scranton.
Ms Cognetti, who is a regular visitor to Ballina, described Biden’s election as ‘a big day’ for the United States, and said she looked forward to personally meeting Ballina representatives after the pandemic.
Also in attendance was Scranton City Council President Bill Gaughan, who remarked on his Knockmore and Lisaniska roots saying: “My dad said to me last night that if his father knew that I was meeting with the Council of Ballina in County Mayo, he would never have believed it, and the fact that we’ve a President from Ballina.”
300th anniversary
Cllr Michael Loftus, who welcomed Joe Biden to Ballina as Cathaoirleach during his 2016 visit, acknowledged the ‘foresight’ of the former Ballina Town Council in twinning the two towns back in 1993.
Cllr Mark Duffy said President Biden would bring ‘new leadership’, and he praised the reinforcement of the historic links between Ballina and Scranton.
Cathaoirleach Cllr Seamus Weir said he hoped that President Biden’s visit would coincide with Ballina’s 300th anniversary commemorations in 2023.
Cllr Weir also thanked Mayor Cognetti and President Gaughan for facilitating his attendance at a meeting of Scranton City Council the day before, which was also attended by Ballina Municipal District Manager Declan Turnbull.
Council Director of Services Tom Gilligan described the inauguration as a ‘very historic day’ for Ballina.
Gilligan also acknowledged that the North Mayo town had produced two Presidents in Joe Biden and Mary Robinson.