By Rebecca Black, PA
US president Joe Biden has received a physical piece of his family’s past at a heritage centre in Co Mayo.
He was presented with a brick recovered from the site of his family’s ancestral home in Ballina.
On his final day of engagements in Ireland, he visited the North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Centre to learn more about his Irish roots.
Ten of the president’s 16 great-great-grandparents are believed to hail from Ireland, and while he has links in Co Louth, those with Co Mayo are believed to be the strongest through the Blewitt family.
Patrick Blewitt, from Ballina, left the country during the Irish famine in 1850 to sail to America, like many others, for a new life.
Mr Biden keeps in close contact with the Blewitt family, who attended the White House St Patrick’s Day receptions in 2022 and 2023.
Musicians, including a harpist and fiddle player, struck up as Mr Biden entered a garden at the centre with his son Hunter and sister Valerie Biden Owens.
The president was presented with a brick from the former Blewitt family home in Ballina enclosed in a case by Ernie Caffrey who owns a store near the site.
Mr Biden said “it’s a 200-year-old brick” as he read an inscription on the case, adding: “That’s incredible.”
He walked through an archway in a stone wall and along a path lined with trees to a driveway where a group of people were assembled by a sign with a painting of the president at a lectern in front of a cathedral. “President Ballina, Co Mayo, Ireland,” it read.
Greeting those assembled, he commented “Oh I was in your bar” to one man.
Mr Biden met his cousins from the area ahead of his address in Ballina on Friday evening.