Vice president’s Irish heritage played key role during trip
Mike Pence’s family ties and links with Ireland were much discussed during his first official visit as US vice president.
Mr Pence’s Irish heritage stems from his grandfather who emigrated from Tubbercurry in Co Sligo to the US in 1923 after previously serving with the Irish Defence Forces during the Civil War.
His grandmother’s parents grew up near Doonbeg, in Co Clare and emigrated to the US in the 1880s.
During his visit to Farmleigh, the Irish state guest house in Phoenix Park in Dublin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar showed the Pences archival documents related to the Pence family in Ireland.
Among them was the National Army Recruitment Register, which contains the signature of the VP’s grandfather.
The Taoiseach showed it to the VP and presented him with a framed copy of the page containing his grandfather’s signature.
Mr Pence first visited Doonbeg in 1981 when he travelled to Ireland to reconnect with his roots, shortly after Richard Michael Cawley, his maternal grandfather and an Irish immigrant, died in December 1980.
The VP also visited Doonbeg in 2013 with his family, where Hugh McNally, a distant cousin of the vice president, runs Morrissey’s pub.
Speaking at Farmleigh, Mr Pence said: “Our family cherishes our Irish heritage.
“I first came to Ireland the year my grandfather passed in 1981. I saw the two-room house he grew up in.
“I spent weeks cutting turf in the peat bogs. I learned how to pour a proper pint working at Morrissey’s pub in Doonbeg.
“During that month and a half that I was here, it was a formative experience in my life.
“I met people with broad smiles and strong opinions.
“I came to realise that I carry Ireland with me wherever I go, just like more than 30 million Americans who trace their heritage to the Emerald Isle.
“And Irish Americans have enriched our nation since its earliest days.
“Irish Americans have made extraordinary contributions to the life of our nation, whether it be to the armed forces, to the arts, in business, in education, and in public life.”
Mr Varadkar said that his family’s connection to Ireland is “very real and very recent”.
“The story of Richard Michael Cawley, however, is not unique,” he added.
“It is an example of the ties of history, kinship and friendship which link our two countries.
“A relationship that transformed the Atlantic from being an ocean of tears into a gateway to hope and opportunity.
“Our two countries are united today in our common interests, our shared heritage and our deep abiding friendship.”