Sketch: Joe Biden is very Irish, to be sure
An elderly man shuffles up to a platform, where there is a promise of a comfortable seat to rest his weary legs. He holds out his hand to another man, standing at the top of the two small steps – to the world it looks like a handshake, but actually he needs the extra support. President Joe Biden takes his seat in the Dáil.
The microphone squeals to life, voicing a little protest – Biden is used to being protested against – and Seán Ó Fearghaíl, the Dáil’s speaker, welcomes him. The president tries to arrange his features in a way that seems like he is interested, though really he’s just come for the free jolly. His team insisted he at least make it seem like a diplomatic event.
Those advisors, who are surely watching through their fingers after a series of gaffes in recent days, made the president wear a green tie for the occasion. Of course. He’s the most Irish president since JFK, didn’t you know?
Ó Fearghaíl also welcomes the youngest attendee, the eight-week old daughter of a senator. Biden appears about as confused as the baby surely is.
“You sure can draw a crowd,” marvels the Speaker. “Perhaps afterwards you might give me some hints on how we could ensure a good attendance around here on Thursday afternoons.” Biden politely chuckles, the laughter not quite reaching his eyes, belying the fact he just wants a nap.
“President Biden, in life you have demonstrated unshakeable faith, deep resilience and the ability to bring together people of diverse and often conflicting views,” Ó Fearghaíl continues. Wait a minute. “In life”? Is Biden dead? What a way to announce to the world that the White House has been Weekend At Bernie’s-ing the president.
And it’s now Biden’s turn to speak. He practically bounds over to his lectern (or at least the White House does a very good job at pulling the strings and making is seem like the president is spry and not, you know, deid).
“Well Mom, you said it would happen,” he begins, raising his hands and eyes upwards to the heavens, before glancing back down to the eight-week-old. “Margot, I apologise to you, little baby girl – the idea that you have to listen to the president of the United States deliver a policy speech is as bad as what my children have been put through.” No one is as sorry as Biden though, who would much rather be exploring the history of the Ó Fionnagáin clan – his own family tree, apparently – than here talking to a bunch of people he’ll never remember by morning.
“I am at home,” announces the president. Has he mentioned he is Irish? “I only wish that I could stay longer.” Perhaps if he doesn’t secure those four more years, he could retire on the Emerald Isle.
He goes on to tell those listening about the rugby ball in his office – you know, the Oval Office – from when Ireland beat the (his advisors brace for it) All Blacks (hurrah, his legion of press officers toast the president for not referring to the Black and Tans again!). His cousin and professional Irish rugby player Rob Kearney brought it over. See, some of his family are still Irish!
His part of the family sailed out of Newry in 1850 (so just a few days before Biden was born). “I wasn’t going to say this, but I’ll say it anyway.” That sound you hear is of his press secretary re-clenching her butt cheeks as her boss goes off-piste again. But it turned out to be fine. He just wanted to tell everyone that his “good friend Barack Obama – and he is my good friend” (weird flex) also had a grandfather who sailed from Ireland. Guess that must be Barack Ó Bama.
“I say all this not to wax poetic about bygone days,” adds Biden – though, like any ageing relative, he does love doing that. “My family’s journey, of those who left and those who stayed, is emblematic of the stories of so many Irish and American families”. He is SO Irish, he insists in his Pennsylvanian drawl. No doubt advisors had to persuade him not to do an Irish accent for this speech… he has priors for that sort of thing.
Biden moves on to talk about the present day for a change. He mentions Northern Ireland, and ensuring its people are supported. “I think that the United Kingdom should be working closer with Ireland in this endeavour,” he says. Ooft. Bit of a blast after his aides were forced to insist he wasn’t “anti-British” following accusations that he “hates the UK”.
It’s no surprise that all Rishi Sunak got was a lousy coffee. The PM will be aiming for at least some pastries when the president next comes back across the Atlantic (though not for the King’s coronation, Biden’s decided to dingie that one. Still not anti-British though, he team hastily advise).
Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe