Vice President Joe Biden with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Dublin in June, 2016. photo.

EDITORIAL: Biden's Irish Sojourn

President Joe Biden is in Ireland for four days this week.

Some might say that Biden is always in Ireland one way or another. Certainly, Ireland, and his own sense of Irishness, is never far from the 46th president's mind.

Back in 1879, one of Biden's predecessors in the White House, U.S. Grant, spent five days in Ireland. Of course, by that year, Grant was a former president.

Still, it was seen as something of a big deal that even a former president, one who had family roots on the island, would set foot on Irish soil.

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Irish soil, perhaps. But not Irish-ruled ground.

Grant was the first man ever to serve as president to make the journey across the Atlantic to Ireland, this as part of a post-presidential world tour. His Irish family link was to County Tyrone.

Big deal though it was, Grant's arrival was not universally welcomed.

According to a National Parks Service website account, Grant spent a relatively short time in Ireland, arriving in Dublin on January 3, 1879 and departing the country five days later.

"During this time Ireland was under the rule of Great Britain, a point of longstanding anger and grievance among many Irish. Instead of an Irishman greeting Grant upon his arrival, an Englishman, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Duke of Marlborough invited Grant to lunch. Later, Grant was received and welcomed warmly by John Barrington, the Irish-born Lord Mayor of Dublin. In other parts of Ireland, however, Grant was not viewed with this amount of esteem. When the city of Cork heard that Grant might pay them a visit, its leaders debated whether to welcome him into their city at all. Perhaps aware of this debate, Grant chose not to visit Cork."

A part reason for this was that Grant, as president, had crossed swords with American Fenians as they attempted to disrupt British rule in Canada.

Still, the Grant visit would set something in motion. Ireland would be on the bucket list for future American presidents, and former presidents.

John F. Kennedy made history with his Irish visit, being the first sitting president and Catholic to boot. Kennedy vowed to return but, tragically, this would not happen.

Richard Nixon visited in 1970. Then came Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton notched up three visits as a serving president and he was followed in varied contexts by George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Bill Clinton, the most regular presidential visitor, will be back in Ireland in a few days for a Good Friday Agreement event at Queen's University in Belfast.

Joe Biden's Irish days will be spent in a very different Ireland to that of Grant's time. But he will be meeting with a British Prime Minister in part of it, and an Irish Taoiseach in part of it.

Biden was in Ireland as vice president seven years ago. He was warmly received. This will be no less the case this week, and given his job promotion the level of fuss and protocol will be stepped up.

But it's fair to say that some critical Irish eyes will be cast in Biden's direction. And some will be studying Biden closely trying to answer the question as to his viability as a candidate in 2024. Biden is now eighty-years old.

President Ronald Reagan was a mere 73 when he visited Ireland in 1984.

But Biden, drawing energy from Ireland and the Irish, flashing his smile and wearing his trademark aviator glasses, will do his best to kick the jet lag and put his best foot forward in Belfast, Dublin, Louth and Mayo.

And he will be cheered every step of the way.