Joe Biden gushes that his 'heart' is in Dublin amid unionist anger

Did he mention he’s Irish? Joe Biden gushes that his ‘heart’ is in Dublin and jokes he might not return to the US – as unionists complain he is ‘not even trying’ to be neutral over NI after ‘gaffe’ about ‘beating the hell out of the Black and Tans’

  • Joe Biden referred to ‘Black and Tans’ during speech at Windsor Bar in Dundalk
  • Unclear whether he was deliberately jibing at British or meant to say ‘All Blacks’ 

Joe Biden gushed that his ‘heart’ is in Ireland today as he met his counterpart on the latest leg of his visit.

The US president said it is ‘a pleasure to be back’ as he was welcomed by Michael D Higgins at his Dublin residence.

Mr Biden said he had written in the guest book quoting an Irish proverb, ‘your feet will bring you where your heart is’.

‘I’m not going home,’ he told watching media. ‘Isn’t this an incredible place?’

The latest effusive pledge of allegiance to Ireland – which cynics suggest is linked to the looming US election campaign – came despite a backlash at his ‘partisan’ and ‘anti-British’ stance.  

The White House was forced to issue a correction after Mr Biden jibed about ‘the Black and Tans’ during a pub visit in County Louth last night.

Mr Biden said he was wearing a shamrock tie given to him by rugby-player Rob Kearney – a distant relative – saying approvingly that he ‘beat the hell out of the Black and Tans’.

The Blacks and Tans was an auxilliary police force sent to Ireland in the 1920s to counter IRA extremism – pilloried in Republican folk songs for their brutality. The group was notably singled out in the pro-IRA song, ‘Come Out, Ye Black And Tans’, still popular with Irish rebel bands. 

However, the White House website attempted to smooth over the situation by clarifying its official record to refer to the All Blacks – the New Zealand Rugby team.

The comment drew laughter in the pub, with Mr Biden’s reputation as a gaffe machine leaving room for doubt about whether it was intentional or merely a slip.

He also said that he ‘hated’ the fact his father had passed on an English surname – although he insisted he was ‘joking’. 

Baroness Kate Hoey told MailOnline the episode ‘underscores why so many pro-union people feel that he really only understands Irish Republican history’. 

UUP Stormont assembly member Tom Elliott said there were ‘significant concerns’ in the unionist community about Mr Biden favouring the Irish side.

‘Most of the gaffes are against the British or the unionist community… he doesn’t even try to be neutral on those occasions,’ he told Talk TV.

‘Comments like that about the Black and Tans… I think that just demonstrates that he has a deep rooted Irishness and that he is obviously on the side of the nationalist community.’ 

Joe Biden said it is ‘a pleasure to be back’ as he was welcomed by Michael D Higgins (left) at his Dublin residence today

Mr Biden said he had written in the guest book quoting an Irish proverb, ‘your feet will bring you where your heart is’

Mr Biden reviewed troops as he continued his emotional visit to Ireland today

The White House website attempted to smooth over the situation by clarifying its official record to refer to the All Blacks – the New Zealand Rugby team

Mr Biden referenced Rob Kearney – the Irish rugby player, who is a distant cousin. Mr Biden is pictured welcoming Kearney to the White House on March 17, to celebrate St Patrick’s Day

Kearney (left) is pictured celebrating Ireland’s first ever defeat of the All Blacks – a 40-29 victory in a match held at Chicago’s Soldier Field

The incident threatens to inflame tensions over Mr Biden’s ‘partisan’ stance towards Northern Ireland and the Republic. 

Former DUP leader Baroness Foster said on the eve of his arrival that the US president ‘hates the UK’ – forcing Mr Biden’s senior aide, Amanda Sloat, to insist he is ‘not anti-British’.

The Black and Tans: 10,000-strong force of veterans who meted out brutal response to IRA extremism 

The Black and Tans were a 10,000-strong group of British recruits to the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Recruitment began in January 1920 and many of those who signed up were unemployed veterans who had served in the misery of the First World War.

They were sent to Ireland to try and quash demands to break away from Britain.

The War of Independence was fought from 1919-21, and many members of the RIC had quit when it began due to split loyalties or fears of reprisals. 

The Black and Tans were known for a brutal approach, although they also faced extremists in the IRA whose own tactics were similarly vicious.

On Bloody Sunday, November 21, 1920, the IRA killed at least 14 people – mainly English suspected of being spies. 

The RIC reacted the same afternoon at a Gaelic Football match in Croke Park. In a febrile atmosphere with suspicions that culprits had slipped into the crowd, police opened fire – killing 14.

Their nickname came from their uniform – they wore some of the dark green clothing of the RIC, which looked black, and some of the khaki of the British army. 

The 80-year-old is considered the most Irish of all US presidents, with 10 of his 16 great great grandparents coming from the Emerald Isle.

Speaking at the pub in Dundalk, just south of the Northern Ireland border, Mr Biden proudly declared that Kearney, who won 95 caps for the Irish team from 2007-19, had given him the shamrock tie he was wearing.

‘This was given to me by one of these guys, right here, a hell of a rugby player,’ said Mr Biden.

‘He beat the hell out of the Black and Tans.’

Kearney, voted Europe’s best player in 2012, played a pivotal role in Ireland’s defeat of the All Blacks – the New Zealand national team – in November 2016, in Chicago.

It was the first time that Ireland had ever beaten the New Zealand side.

The checked against delivery version of the speech on the White House website has the Black and Tans crossed out and ‘All Blacks’ added in brackets. 

One of his senior officials, Amanda Sloat, said today: ‘It was clear what the president was referring to, it was certainly clear to his cousins sitting next to him.’ 

The Black and Tans were a group of around 10,000 constables enlisted to help reinforce police on the island during the Irish War of Independence between 1919 and 1921. They were known for their brutal approach to Republican attacks.  

Many were former soldier and their nickname came from their uniforms – a mix of the dark green of the RIC, which looked black, and the tan color of the British army. 

The July 1921 ceasefire saw the island divided, with Northern Ireland remaining under British control and the south breaking away, and the RIC disbanded.

During the speech Mr Biden also quipped that even though his father was English his ‘saving grace was a quarter of his family was Hanafees from Galway’. 

‘You know, Biden is English. I hate to tell you that,’ he said to laughter.

‘I don’t hate to — I’m joking, but it’s true.’ 

There have been fears that Mr Biden could enrage unionists with references to his Irish heritage during his visit to Belfast.

As vice president, Mr Biden caused offence to Northern Ireland’s unionist community when, during a St Patrick’s Day event, he joked: ‘If you’re wearing orange, you’re not welcome here.’

Sir Hamar Greenwood of the Royal Irish Constabulary inspects a group of Black and Tans, an armed auxiliary force of the RIC, in January 1921

A suspected member of the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein is searched at gunpoint by the Black and Tans in November 1920

Members of the Black and Tans with Lewis machine guns in Dublin in the early 1920s

Northern Ireland’s primarily Protestant unionist community associate themselves with the colour in celebration of William of Orange’s victory over Catholic forces at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

As a senator in 1985, he spoke out against making it easier to extradite IRA militants from the US to Britain, a sentiment popular with Irish-Americans but not in Britain.

He has talked often about his mother’s hatred for England, which was so intense that she once refused to use a bed that Queen Elizabeth II had slept in.

In his memoir, ‘Promises to Keep,’ he recalls with a degree of embarrassment at his English surname Biden.

And he describes how his Irish-American aunt Gertie Finnegan once told him: ‘Your father is not a bad man. He’s just English.’

In 2020, as president-elect, he took a cheeky dig at the UK’s national broadcaster when a BBC reporter shouted a question at him. ‘The BBC?’ he said, moving on with a smile. ‘I’m Irish.’

Mr Biden’s four-day trip to Ireland was officially timed to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

He landed in Belfast on Tuesday night, and met the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, in Belfast yesterday morning.

He spoke at Ulster University after his meeting with Mr Sunak, but was criticised for only spending a few hours in Northern Ireland.

He then crossed the border to visit Carlingford, where his great-great-grandfather was born.

Accompanied by his sister Valerie and son Hunter, Mr Biden then went to Kilwirra cemetery, where his ancestors were buried, before his stop at the pub in Dundalk.

Today Mr Biden will meet President Michael D. Higgins in Dublin, and address a joint sitting of parliament before attending a banquet dinner in Dublin Castle.

Tomorrow the president flies to County Mayo to visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock shrine, and a family heritage centre.

What is the Come Out Ye Black and Tans song? Pro-IRA tune was written in 1920s in support of the republican cause during Irish War of Independence

Come Out Ye Black and Tans is an Irish rebel song about the Black and Tans – officially known as the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve.

The Black and Tans were a British paramilitary police auxiliary force, formed in 1919 and made up of temporary constables, during the Irish War of Independence.

They were given the nickname due to their mix of khaki British Army and rifle green RIC uniforms.

Most of the recruits were former British World War One veterans, but were specifically seen as separate to the military as the British government did not want to give credibility to the cause of an ‘independence war’. 

The Black and Tans were infamous for their ruthlessness and often clashed with civilians, as well as armed republican forces – including the IRA. The force were disbanded in 1922.

Dominic Behan wrote the song for his father Stephen. And although it specifically mentions the Black and Tans, the context of the song is a dispute between republican and loyalist groups in Dublin.

The song ties Irish nationalism to the struggles of other peoples against the British Empire across the world, mentioning wars in the Middle East and the Zulus. 

In modern day, the term ‘Black and Tans’ is seen as a more general derogatory term for the British and British Army in Ireland.

The song is still sung by Irish rebel bands and folk singers and is sometimes heard at Ireland and Celtic FC football matches. 

The chorus of the song goes:

Come out ye Black and Tans,

Come out and fight me like a man,

Show your wife how you won medals out in Flanders,

Tell her how the IRA made you run like hell away,

From the green and lovely lanes in Killeshandra

Mr Biden takes a selfie after speaking at Ulster University on Wednesday morning

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