‘He’s doing better here than in America’: Biden’s Irish fans point to his crumbling U.S. approval rating compared to his hero’s welcome as they line up in the rain to catch a glimpse of The Beast and his pub visit with NO Guinness
- Biden visited the Windsor Pub and Restaurant on his first day in Ireland
- People lined the streets of Dundalk and cheered his motorcade
- One fan called Bill Clinton ‘more charismatic’
Joe Biden’s repeated invocations of his Irish heritage have won him plenty of fans – in Ireland, where hundreds lined up to catch a glimpse of the president in the town of Dundalk Wednesday.
Among the throngs of supporters who came to see the U.S. president pass through town were Aoudhan McGuiness, 40, and his wife Linda. ‘It’s a momentous occasion for the town,’ said the mortgage advisor.
‘He’s doing better here than in America,’ interjected his wife Linda, 39, who has a dental lab and who follows Biden’s struggling approval ratings on cable networks Fox and CNN.
Both of them commute to work in Northern Ireland – a crossing that was harder when British soldiers lived in the town, in an area transformed during the 25 years since the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement that Biden is here to mark in between visits to distant relatives.
‘It’s a new world now compared to that, we don’t want to go back to it,’ she said.
‘He’s doing better here than in America,’ quipped Linda McGuinness, who braved the cold and rain to catch a glimpse of Biden, along with her husband Aoudhan and 10-year-old son, Pearse
Biden’s fans ran from the very young – a mom brought her 16-month old baby – the the elderly, with an 89-year-old grandmother who got two kisses from the 80-year-old president.
One younger Biden backer across the street from the Windsor pub and restaurant was Rebecca Lennon, 12, who held a hand-made sign that said ‘Howaya Joe?’
‘It’d be more accurate to say I’m freezing’ she quipped during the long wait for the president.
She was among hundreds who lined up outside the pub where Biden has a Finnigan family connection, on his mother’s side, although Lennon grew impatient at times.
‘What’s so nice about Irish food that he needs to stop at every restaurant?’ she groaned when Biden made an unexpected stop at the Food House across town. (He bought sweets, paid cash, and ‘was talking a lot about his Irish background,’ said the owner).
Rebecca Lennon, 12, held a hand-made sign that said ‘Howaya Joe?’
‘If he has a reservation and he doesn’t show up he’ll be charged anyway,’ joked Ciarra Lennon, left
‘I want a selfie with Joe Biden!’ said Kayla McCardle Stokes, 16 (r)
Biden gave pub owner Donal McGeough got a blue baseball cap with the seal of the U.S. President. Biden, who doesn’t drink, didn’t have a Guinness
Former Irish rugby union player Rob Kearney at the pub after Biden left
People lined the streets of Dundalk to see Biden
People took snapshots and video of Biden’s motorcade
Biden fans braved cold temperatures and rain to catch a glimpse of Biden and his motorcade. Some said they waited for hours
The delay wasn’t going over well in Dundalk.
‘If he has a reservation and he doesn’t show up, he’ll be charged anyway,’ joked Rebecca’s mom, Ciarra Lennon, who held an Irish flag for the occasion.
She came with three children, her brother and her husband Finton Hanratty, who tried once before to see a U.S. president – Bill Clinton.
‘Clinton came and we waited five hours in the pub,’ he lamented. His reviews of Biden were positive.
‘He’s doing very well. We weren’t that fond of the last fella,’ he says in a reference to Donald Trump.
Crowd members screamed when Biden’s armored limo, ‘the Beast,’ drove by. A helicopter could be seen overhead. Many craned just to catch a glimpse.
‘He’s going to have a pint at Windsor – that’s the funniest thing I ever heard,’ said Kayla McCardle Stokes, 16, a student.
She was wrong: the tea-totaling Biden doesn’t drink. But she was still overwhelmed at the scene.
‘I am so excited that Joe Biden is here – the president of America and he’s right here. I love America so much,’ she gushed. Then she yelled to friends: ‘I want a selfie with Joe Biden!’
Seeing a U.S. president in the flesh isn’t all that novel here. Sharon and Raymond Kelly of Dundalk saw Clinton when he visited in 2000.
‘It was great, very exciting – a day we’ll always remember,’ says the bank worker.
But when pressed on who he would choose if he could only pick one to see, it is the 42nd president who most enthralled her. It would be Clinton. ‘More charismatic,’ says Raymond, who is in the construction business.
‘It’s not every day they come to Ireland and come five feet away from our doorstep,’ she added.
Nessa Dooley also fondly recalled a Clinton connection. She brought her 16-month-old Scarlett, who was keeping warm in a thick pink onesie coat.
‘I was a little girl when Bill Clinton came … It’s always exciting to see the president of the United States in a small town in Ireland, she says.
The shivering and curious outside weren’t able to go inside the cozy Windsor, where owner Donal McGeough got a blue baseball cap with the seal of the U.S. President from Biden. ‘It’s not coming off,’ he said proudly.
Inside the pub, Biden gave a speech where he talked about his Irish roots. In the room were son Hunter Biden, sister Valerie Biden Owens, the Irish Tánaiste Michael Martin (the former Toiseach), and the U.S. ambassador to Ireland – not to mention Finnegans and Kearneys who might be distant relatives of the president.
Unlike many who poured into the establishment after he left, Biden didn’t have a Guinness.
The owner’s elderly mom got served something else: presidential kisses – two of them.
‘She got a couple. She got one as he come in the door. And then on the way back, he stopped to say hello to her. They have a lot in common – you know she’s 89,’ said McGeough. She bore 10 children, has 37 grandchildren, and 70 great grand children. McGeough only found out about the presidential visit Monday.
Biden also got high marks from former Irish rugby union player Rob Kearney, a distant relative – although Biden committed a gaffe when he said the player ‘beat the hell out of the Black and Tans’ – apparently confusing the New Zealand All Blacks with the British Black and Tans deployed during the Irish War of Independence.
‘Amazing to have him back home – he’s very Irish in every way and we’re really proud to have him here,’ he said after signing a jersey.
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