Residents in Joe Biden’s Irish ancestral home confident of his victory

Joe Biden’s supporters in his ancestral home in the west of Ireland are confident they will welcome him back as the new US president.

As the Democrat edges closer to the White House, residents in Ballina, Co Mayo, are already planning to roll out the red carpet for his return.

Mr Biden’s great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewit emigrated from the town almost 200 years ago, having worked as a brick-maker and as a civil engineer helping to map Ireland.

Locals in the town now hope Mr Biden can follow in his ancestor’s footsteps by putting Ballina on the map.

Ten of his 16 great-great grandparents were also born in Ireland.

A mural of Mr Biden, which overlooks the main square in the old market town, was recently created by local artists Smiler Mitchell and Leslie Lackey.

After the unveiling, Mr Biden pledged to revisit the town if he wins the election.

Joe Blewitt
Joe Blewitt

He first visited Ballina in June 2016 as US vice-president, and met with a number of relatives including Joe and Laurita Blewit.

Mr Blewit said he believes his cousin will be the next president of the US.

He added: “It will be unreal for the family. I have met him three or four times now and to know someone who is going to be the president of the United States is unreal.

“I was in the White House a few years ago and it was a cool place to be in so I am looking forward to going back again.

“I am confident he will win, though I wasn’t too sure on Tuesday if he would win but hopefully tonight he will make it.

“It’s great for Ballina, the mural has attracted a lot of attention. We sent him a picture of the mural – he couldn’t get over it.

“He actually robbed my line and wrote on his home house in Scranton (Pennsylvania) ‘from my house to the White House’.

“Everyone in Ballina is proud of him.”

Anthony Heffernan, who owns Heffernan cafe and butchers in the Market Square, hosted Mr Biden and some 20 of his entourage in 2016.

“Mr Biden came here on a family visit and he gathered about 22 of his distant relatives and had a meal with them to get to know them,” he said.

“They chose our building because it was secure. Sniffer dogs went through the building, it was very exciting.

“The Bidens were lovely people – they just wanted to talk about Ballina and find out the history of the town and what it was like when their family were here.

“Everyone is very keen and paying close attention to the election, we are pretty sure he will get in though I don’t think Mr Trump will give in easily.

“I think Joe Biden spoke very well on Wednesday night.

“He has told relatives here that he will be back when he becomes president.”

Joe Biden
Joe Biden

One of Mr Biden’s distant relatives, Bernie Finan, has met the Democrat twice.

“I first met him when he was coming down the main street and was shaking hands with everyone and I spoke to him and told him we are related,” he said.

“I asked if he would mind that I contact him when he got back to the US and he said it would be fine.

“He seems nice, a simple man of the people and that’s reflected in the vote in recent days.

“I’ve been keeping a very close eye on it, I switched the radio on when I went to bed and then spent most of yesterday and today listening to it.

“He’s edging that bit closer and I heard the bookies gave him three-to-one and seldom do the bookies make a mistake.

“Biden and the razzle dazzle has been good for Ballina. Let’s hope it will be more useful in the future as it’s a beautiful town.”

Among many of the locals flying the flag for the presidential hopeful was Maria Bourke from Knockmore.

She said: “We hope Biden will win it and not the other one (Donald Trump).

“I think the whole world wants Biden to win.

“Ballina will go mad and I hope there are no restrictions when he comes to visit as the whole town will go mad.

“Everyone will be delighted, he is more normal than the other man. Biden is more of a family man.

“People want a leader they can relate to and see as a family man.”

Local Tricia Mullen said: “We’ve been following it closely these last few days and I am dying to see who wins.

Aobha Brennan
Aobha Brennan

“My children are getting me up early in the mornings so I am able to follow what’s happening.”

Also among Mr Biden’s fans is eight-year-old Aobha Brennan, who hopes to one day welcome him to her home town.

She said: “I want him to win as he’s a nice man.

“I would love to meet him. I’ve been watching him on my television. He just needs a few more votes to win and I’ll be so excited.”

Mary, who did not want to give her surname, said it is likely Mr Biden will return to the county as president.

She was among the thousands of people on the streets to greet the Bidens in 2016.

“I spoke to him and shook his hand, it was very exciting, she said.

“Joe Biden came with his entourage and his security. I was expecting all of his bodyguards to be pushing us away behind a line but there was none of that.

“It was very relaxed – just like Biden.

“He was walking down the street and spoke to everyone and there were no issues.

“It was a very exciting day for everyone. He was all smiles and we were all smiles.

“Everyone is excited to see what happens next.”