Joe Biden and the ‘Cúpla Focal’

With the visit of US President Joe Biden to Ireland, it’s only fitting that we provide a few basic Irish phrases for his visit! After all, our Irish classes first began in Washington DC back in 2009, and as the pioneers of online Irish courses and community, we know a thing or two about teaching the ‘cúpla focal’ to folks with busy schedules! See below for reasons why Joe might like to learn some simple Irish phrases…

The Ballina Community Clean-Up Committee with a mural of Joe Biden. Credit: John O'Grady,

Joe Biden’s Irish Heritage

It’s no secret that President Biden celebrates his Irish heritage, and he’s often been referred to as the most Irish American president in office since John F. Kennedy. Like many Irish, Joe Biden is proud of his Irish heritage.

Records from the 1830s show that Patrick Blewitt was the President’s great-great-grandfather. The Mayo man was born in Ballina and left for America in the late 1850s, becoming a sailor and eventually setling in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Joe grew up surrounded by his mother’s Irish American family, the Finnegans, and he was schooled by nuns at Catholic school in Delaware. Even his Secret Service codename, Celtic, speaks to his lineage. 

Joe Biden is expected to land in Ireland on April 11th, and during his visit he’s due to meet with President Michael D Higgins. Surely the use of ‘an cúpla focal’ would be a nice gesture during his stay, as it is when all members of the diaspora arrive in the ‘motherland’! See below for three videos with simple Irish phrases that Joe Biden could use on his visit to Ireland. Find more videos and explanations on our Frásaí Simplí page, or check out our YouTube channel.

25 Years on from the GFA

UUP leader David Trimble, U2 singer Bono, and SDLP leader John Hume at the concert for a 'Yes' vote in the Good Friday Agreement referendum, May 19th, 1998. Credit: Irish Times

Of course, the main purpose of Joe Biden’s visit to Ireland is to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), a historic pact formed between contrasting communities, traditions and governments in the name of peace. There have been many political obstacles in the intervening years, and progress has been painfully slow, but there has been progress nonetheless. Significantly, the GFA saw the establishment of Foras na Gaeilge, the all-island body which continues to play a key role in growth of the language since its establishment in 1999.

And what next for Joe?

Like many a visitor, the visit to Ireland is bound to reignite Joe Biden’s already strong interest in Irish culture and heritage. There are many reasons to learn Irish, including a few less obvious ones that we’ve identified. So, if Joe fancies taking the next obvious step, and joining the online Irish community, there’s a new term of daily Irish courses beginning May 8th! Joe could join a live Irish class, or watch the videos back in his own time. He could avail of free access to weekly comhrá sessions or come along to Féile na Gaeilge 2023, taking place daily, Apr 24-28th. And if all of that is just too much commitment for a a busy guy, Joe can simply call into our Free Irish Workshop on the first Sunday of every month! Go n-éirí leat, a Joe!

Join the online Irish community for cúrsaí, comhrá & ceardlanna, and follow along on social media @LetsLearnIrish – beidh fáilte romhat!

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