The historic visit by US President Joe Biden to Louth on 12th April 2023 was a proud day for the county, with a huge welcome extended across Carlingford and Dundalk.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, organisers of the visit, had put best efforts in for a smooth journey, but a Yellow Wind warning saw the planned helicopter landing site of President Biden change at the last minute from the Cooley Kickhams to Dublin airport, with the cavalcade then having to travel to Louth by car. An unfortunate incident on the M1 (unrelated to the visit) further hindered travel to Louth. At this stage, most people might have given up but President Biden, whose Louth roots are strong, was determined to visit his ancestral home.
The 46th President of the United States is a direct descendant of Thomas, Catherine, James and Patrick Finegan who are interred in Kilwirra Cemetery, Templetown, Carlingford.
The first stop for the Presidential cavalcade in Louth was Carlingford Castle in the heart of the medieval village. Accompanied by An Tánaiste Micheál Martin on the tour, President Biden took in the stunning views of Carlingford Lough. Built circa. 1190, the castle was abandoned in the 1700s, but in more recent years has undergone careful renovation by the Office of Public Works to make it more accessible to the public. https://www.carlingford.ie/carlingford-castle
The people of Carlingford were not shy in their welcome home to the President, lining the streets in the rain to greet his arrival. A piper band, which included one of Louth County Council’s own firefighters, played a composition called ‘Biden Returns’ which earned them an unexpected but much welcome invitation to play at The Whitehouse!
Having left Carlingford, President Biden travelled by car to Dundalk. Large crowds lined the streets, as the President arrived in Clanbrassil Street for a visit to McAteer’s The Food House and a ‘walk about’ towards Market Square, meeting and greeting well wishers along the route.
A reception was held at The Windsor Bar and Restaurant, where President Biden met with a number of dignitaries including Oireachtas members, Louth County Council elected representatives, and Louth County Council officials.
Cathaoirleach of Louth County Council, Conor Keelan said: ‘President Joe Biden has deep and lasting ties with County Louth, which were very clear when he said it ‘feels like coming home’. It was great to see him given the warmest of welcomes during this historic visit, which really showcased the very best Louth has to offer.’
Chief Executive Joan Martin said: ‘It was an extraordinary day for County Louth, and we were delighted to witness the rousing welcome received in both Carlingford and Dundalk. We are really honoured that Joe Biden returned to Louth once again, this time as President of the United States, and hope that he takes home many great memories from his time in Louth.’
To mark the visit President Biden was gifted with a pair of specially designed ‘Cloicín’ cufflinks, created by Louth based jeweller Garrett Mallon. Cloicín takes its name from the stony shoreline of Carlingford.
A framed photograph of Kilwirra cemetery in Templetown, taken by Dundalk photographer Mark Duffy was also gifted, along with a book of Louth photographs taken by Mark Duffy.
While the visit was directed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the security services, Louth County Council had made preparations ahead of the Presidential visit over the last week.
These included: Installation of 50 sq. metres of new granite paving outside the ‘Queen’s’ building at Market Square; replanting of all flower beds at Market Square; removal of 50 bins along Clanbrassil Street, over 40 manholes searched and sealed with An Garda Síochána, and power-washing of footpaths and street surfaces throughout the town centre carried out over three consecutive nights.
In addition the ‘Clinton Monument’, installed at Earl Street to mark the historic speech made by the first US President to visit Dundalk in December 2000, was cleaned up ahead of President Biden’s tour of the town centre.
Louth County Council co-ordinated with a range of organisations and agencies, including: the US Embassy, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of the Taoiseach, An Garda Síochána and the HSE, to ensure the visit was such a success.
The visit put County Louth at the centre of national and international media coverage throughout the day, presenting once in a generation opportunities for tourism www.visitlouth.ie and future economic and business investment.