Joe Biden will be the eighth sitting U.S. president to visit Ireland this week. Many of his predecessors have also sought out their Irish roots, sometimes to be greeted by cheering crowds, sometimes by protests.
John F. Kennedy, June 1963
President John F. Kennedy came to Ireland five months before his assassination for a visit that drew large crowds everywhere he went. According to the book “JFK in Ireland”, he later told aides that it was the best four days of his life.
Kennedy became the first foreign leader to address a joint meeting of the Irish Houses of parliament, and his speech was also the first time cameras were allowed into the chamber to record the proceedings.
All eight of the president’s great-grandparents migrated to Boston from Ireland during the potato famine in the late 1840s.
“It took 115 years to make this journey, and 6,000 miles, and three generations,” Kennedy, the first Irish Catholic president of the United States, said in a speech by the Barrow river near one of his ancestral homes in Southern County Wexford.
Richard Nixon, October 1970
President Richard Nixon’s state visit to Ireland early in his presidency included a visit to a Quaker cemetery in County Kildare, where his mother’s ancestors are buried.
The visit was marred by protests against the Vietnam War. A man threw eggs at the presidential motorcade as it passed through downtown Dublin, forcing a waving Nixon to hide in the car.
More protesters waited for the president outside Dublin Castle, where he and the first lady met the Irish prime minister for lunch.
Ronald Reagan, June 1984
Ronald Reagan’s visit to Ireland was memorable for a photograph showing the president drinking a pint of Irish ale at John O’farrell’s pub in Ballyporeen, County Tipperary, where his great-grandfather Michael Regan was born in 1829.
The entire interior of the bar – including the counter, wall display case, and beer taps-was transferred to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California in 2004.
Bill Clinton, 1995, 1998 and 2000
President Clinton visited Ireland and Northern Ireland three times. The first trip, in November 1995, was intended to support progress towards a peace agreement that his government would help mediate over the next two and a half years.
In both Belfast and Londonderry, the streets were full of people to see him. In Belfast, an estimated 50,000 people from both sides of the sectarian divide saw him deliver a powerful peace message. A huge crowd also turned up for a speech in Dublin.
He returned in September 1998, after a majority on both sides of the border supported the Good Friday agreement that largely ended three decades of bloodshed, and again in December 2000 to break a political deadlock as all parties struggled to implement parts of the peace agreement.
George W. Bush, 2003, 2004 and 2008
Around 10,000 people turned out for a “Stop Bush”rally in Dublin in June 2004, while the president was in the south of the country for an EU-US summit during Ireland’s presidency of the European Union.
The president also visited Northern Ireland in 2003, shortly after the shared-power government formed as part of the peace agreement collapsed, and returned in 2008 after devolved institutions were restored.
Barack Obama, May 2011
President Barack Obama celebrated his Irish roots with a visit to the small village of Moneygall, the birthplace of his great-great-grandfather, who left for New York more than 150 years earlier.
He met with members of the public and drank a pint of Guinness in the local pub before delivering a 20-minute speech to a cheering crowd of around 25,000 people in central Dublin, declaring solidarity between the US and economically troubled Ireland at the time.
“I’m Barack Obama, of the Moneygall Obamas. And I came home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way,” said Obama, who visited Belfast two years later when he was in Northern Ireland for a G8 summit.
Donald Trump, June 2019
After being greeted by Queen Elizabeth and other members of the royal family on a state trip to Britain, president Donald Trump spent two days in Ireland, almost entirely at his golf resort in the west of the country.
While Trump did not make any appearances for the Irish public and met Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar only at the airport upon his arrival, his sons Eric and Donald Jr. toured the pubs in the village of Doonbeg next to the resort and bought drinks for the locals.