It has been said that some 40 million souls living in the United States of America have ancestors from the Emerald Isle - Ireland. This fact stood true when Killarney Guided Tours decided to take a closer look at the blood lines of over 20 of the United States’ Presidents, including President Elect, Joe Biden. As we followed the recent elections this past month, we thought our guests may enjoy delving into the Irish-American Presidential connection as much as we did.
Starting at the very beginning, it looks like the 1st President of the United States, George Washington (1789), did not have concrete connections with Ireland. Nevertheless, the United States’ 7th President, Andrew Jackson (1829) did, with parents hailing from County Antrim. And so it began, the strong connection between the two countries. James Buchanan, the 15th President (1857) had family hailing from County Tyrone and once said “my blood is a priceless heritage.“ Yet another President followed Jackson with County Antrim roots - the 17th President in 1865, Andrew Johnson, whose grandfather hailed from County Antrim. Over the next 25 years, each of the U.S. Presidents suprisingly had connections with Ireland, particularly County Antrim.
In 1961, it was the 35th President and first Irish Catholic elected, John F Kennedy, who truly cultivated the strong connection that Ireland and the United States share to this day. President Kennedy’s ancestors came from the sunny south east of Ireland, County Wexford. And it was his visit to Ireland, the first visit from a sitting U.S. President, that was truly remarkable as over one million people travelled long distances by foot in 1963 just to chance a glimpse of John F Kennedy. Ronald Reagan, the 40th President in 1981, had a great grandfather who came originally from County Tipperary. He too visited Ireland and during his visit President Reagan stayed at the famous Ashford Castle.
Both Bush father and son duo, the 41st and 43rd Presidents, claim to have Gaelic roots, being related to the Gaelic King of Leinster. As many of you watched on the news, the 44th President, Barack Obama famously enjoyed a pint while tracing his maternal ancestors' roots in County Offaly. The current President, Donald J. Trump, the 45th President, while not of Irish decent as his mother came from Scotland, is a proud property owner on the island of Ireland. President Trump owns the golf course and resort at Doonbeg County Clare near the Cliffs of Moher. Joe Biden, now President Elect and slated to be inaugurated in 2021, is one of the most outspoken of the modern presidents when it comes to his own Irish connection. President Elect Biden once said in 2016 that “when I die Pennsylvania will be written on my heart, but Ireland will be written on my soul.” Biden’s family is from both County Louth and County Mayo, making him proudly 5\8 Irish.
As the President’s have learned through history, the Irish-American vote matters and many campaigning and sitting presidents have visited Ireland to secure the Irish-Americian vote. It is true that many of these great leaders have a great love for the Island of Ireland and visit often for both political, State and personal reasons. As mentioned above, when Kennedy visited the Republic of Ireland in 1963, his visit was celebrated across the entirety of Ireland. President Kennedy left a lasting impression on not only his homestead in County Wexford, but across Ireland with many parks and attractions named in honor of that visit. One such example is in the town of Cobh where many Irish departed Ireland for the high seas in search of the shores of the United States of America. Charming Cobh in County Cork also has a deep connection with the cruise liners Titanic and the Lusitania and makes for a lovely visit while on your own tour with us.
Even President Richard Nixon visited Ireland in 1970. Ronald Reagan stayed in one of the most beautiful locations in Ireland during his stay, Ashford Castle. President Bill Clinton was a frequent visitor, on three occasions in 1995, 1998 and 2000, playing golf at the world famous golf course, Ballybunnion in County Kerry a short journey from Killarney, The Ring of Kerry and Dingle. President Clinton was very involved in the peace talks in Northern Ireland and the intervention of the United States led to the Good Friday Agreement which hopefully brings everlasting peace on the Island. George W Bush visited in 2004 and stayed at another superb location Dromoland Castle close by Shannon Airport and Lahinch Golf Course, The Burren and the spectacular Cliffs of Moher. While Ireland was in a serious recession in 2011, Barak Obama visited and famously gave a speech in Dublin. He said, “Is Féidir linn” to a worried audience which translates to “yes we can,“ giving hope to the citizens of Ireland. President Obama said after his visit and his own tour of Ireland, that many others would follow on vacation to support a thankful nation in recession. In 2019, President Trump came to visit his golf course and resort in Doonbeg where you too will find world class golf with excellent accommodations on site. Doonbeg is also within driving distance of the Famous Lahinch and Ballybunnion Golf Courses. President Elect Biden has visited Ireland on numerous occasions in a private capacity, speanding time with family and friends. As Vice President in 2016 he visited on a State Visit also spending six glorious days exploring the Irish countryside.
The Irish –American connection lives on and now, in a time of crisis during Covid, there are many living in the United States who miss home and miss Ireland. Each of us at Killarney Guided Tours look forward to an influx of visitors over the coming years to explore this wonderful county and its extraordinary people much like the United States' Presidents have explored over the years. Perhaps tracing the route of a Presidential visit, no matter which President in history you may feel a connection to, will be starting point for a perfect tour for your privately guided group. We hope you enjoyed learning a bit of the Irish-American Presidential connection as much we did researching it. With Killarney Guided Tours now taking bookings for the 2021 season, it is time to start planning your very own visit to Ireland. We look forward to hearing from you by email to firstname.lastname@example.org to start planning “Your Tour - Your Trial.”