In Advance of St. Patrick's Day, Biden Meets With Irish Leaders & Accepts Major Irish-American Award

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: March 16, 2006
Location: Washington, DC

In Advance of St. Patrick's Day, Biden Meets With Irish Leaders & Accepts Major Irish-American Award

On the eve of St. Patrick's Day, U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) today met with Ireland's Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, Ireland's Ambassador to the U.S., Noel Fahey, and Ireland's Foreign Minister, Dermot Ahern. The Irish leaders met with Senator Biden, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, to discuss a range of issues including immigration reform and the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Senator Biden will also be fêted tonight at The American Ireland Fund's (AIF) 14th annual National Gala at The National Building Museum in Washington, DC. Senator Biden and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) will be presented the Distinguished Leadership Award. Both Senators will be recognized for their interest and efforts in furthering the peace process in Ireland. Past AIF honorees include Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and U2 frontman Bono. Serving as co-hosts for the evening will be MSNBC's Chris Matthews and his wife, ABC's Kathleen Matthews.

Senator Biden's ancestors emigrated from Ireland to the United States in the mid-1800s. His great, great grandparents, the Blewitts, eventually settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

In accepting the award, Senator Biden credited his mother, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, for teaching him about his Irish roots and instilling him with the Irish spirit.

"I am truly honored to accept this award," said Biden. "My mother, I believe, is a living portrait of what it means to be Irish: proud on the edge of defiance. Generous to a fault; loyal to the end. She not only made me believe in myself, but scores of my friends and acquaintances believe in themselves.

"As a child I stuttered, and she said it was because I was so bright I couldn't get the thoughts out quickly enough. When my face was dirty, and I was not as well dressed as others, she told me how handsome I was. When my wife and daughter were killed, she told me God sends no cross a man is not able to bear.

"And when I triumphed, she reminded me it was because of others. You have given this award to me, but she is the one who really deserves it," concluded Biden.

Part of an international network of Ireland Funds, The American Ireland Fund (AIF) is the largest network of people of Irish ancestry and friends of Ireland dedicated to raising funds to support programs of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, and education and community development in Ireland. The Ireland Funds are active in 10 countries around the world and hold more than 70 events in 39 cities attended by over 40,000 people every year.

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