Irish locals show their colors in Biden’s ancestral home

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Pedestrians read an information board beneath a mural of US Presidential candidate Joe Biden, in his ancestral home of Ballina, north west Ireland, on October 7, 2020. (AFP)
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Joe Biden’s third cousin Joe Blewitt — a local plumber — decorated his van with a tongue-in-cheek reference to the campaign: “Joe Biden for the White House and Joe Blewitt for your house.” (AFP)
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Updated 23 October 2020

Irish locals show their colors in Biden’s ancestral home

  • Biden’s family roots run deep in Ireland, with a heritage described as “roughly five-eighths Irish” by genealogist Megan Smolenyak
  • Ten percent of Americans claim Irish heritage — a 31-million-strong bloc vastly larger than the five-million population of Ireland itself

BALLINA, Ireland: Thousands of miles east of the White House in Ireland, a pop-art portrait of US presidential candidate Joe Biden towers over his ancestral hometown of Ballina, County Mayo.
In the town on Ireland’s rugged Atlantic coast, the Democrat’s distant relatives are thrilled to have one of their own bidding for America’s highest office.
“Obviously we’re 100 percent behind Joe Biden,” Laurita Blewitt, the former vice president’s third cousin, told AFP.
“We’ve got that family connection and we’ve got that friendship and relationship with him,” the 37-year-old said.
Biden’s family roots run deep in Ireland, with a heritage described as “roughly five-eighths Irish” by genealogist Megan Smolenyak.
She has traced his lineage to east-coast County Louth and Ballina — a town of 10,000 people, which is dotted with brightly colored shopfronts and bisected by the River Moy.
In 1851, Biden’s great-great-great-grandfather Edward Blewitt joined the legions of Irish fleeing famine and poverty for a fresh start in New York.
The mural was raised by a band of locals last month, and Ballina is twinned with Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Biden was born in 1942.
The 77-year-old politician has visited twice — first in 2016 when crowds turned out to see president Barack Obama’s deputy.
In 2017 he came back and turned the first sod for a new regional hospice — a cause near to his heart after his son Beau’s death from cancer two years earlier.
Biden wrote that when he dies, “northeast Pennsylvania will be written on my heart.”
“But Ireland will be written on my soul.”
He is mining a rich tradition of American statesmen touting Irish heritage.
In the 20th century, John F. Kennedy was most closely tied to the “Emerald Isle,” and had to overcome anti-Irish, anti-Catholic prejudice to win the White House.
But others including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have all claimed ancestral links to Ireland.
Ten percent of Americans claim Irish heritage — a 31-million-strong bloc vastly larger than the five-million population of Ireland itself.
Those links helped give Washington an intermediary role in resolving the 30-year “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, a sectarian conflict that killed 3,500 in Ireland and the British province itself, before it largely ended in 1998.
Lately, Britain’s Brexit withdrawal from the European Union has threatened the cohesion promised by Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement.
US politicians have stepped in, warning London that a post-Brexit UK-US trade pact could be at risk if the peace is undermined.
Their alarm has reportedly been stoked by energetic briefing by the Irish embassy in Washington.
“The connections between Ireland and the US are incredibly strong,” said Ballina local councillor Mark Duffy.
“It is that soft power,” he added. “Ireland does definitely punch above its weight on the international stage.”


Mysterious monolith in US desert reportedly disappears

Updated 29 November 2020

Mysterious monolith in US desert reportedly disappears

  • The shiny, triangular pillar was spotted on November 18 by baffled local officials
  • Some observers pointed out the object’s resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken

LOS ANGELES: A mysterious metal monolith found in the remote desert of the western United States, sparking a national guessing game over how it got there, has apparently disappeared, officials said.
The Bureau of Land Management in Utah said Saturday it had received “credible reports” that the object had been removed “by an unknown party” on Friday evening.
The bureau “did not remove the structure which is considered private property,” it said in a statement.
“We do not investigate crimes involving private property which are handled by the local sheriff’s office.”
The shiny, triangular pillar which protruded some 12 feet from the red rocks of southern Utah, was spotted on November 18 by baffled local officials counting bighorn sheep from the air.
After landing their helicopter to investigate, Utah Department of Public Safety crew members found “a metal monolith installed in the ground” but “no obvious indication of who might have put the monolith there.”
News of the discovery quickly went viral, with many noting the object’s similarity with strange alien monoliths that trigger huge leaps in human progress in Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Others remarked on its discovery during a turbulent year that has seen the world gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, and optimistically speculated it could have a different function entirely.
“This is the ‘reset’ button for 2020. Can someone please press it quickly?” joked one Instagram user.
“Somebody took the time to use some type of concrete-cutting tool or something to really dig down, almost in the exact shape of the object, and embed it really well,” Nick Street, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety told the New York Times.
“It’s odd,” he added. “There are roads close by, but to haul the materials to cut into the rock, and haul the metal, which is taller than 12 feet in sections — to do all that in that remote spot is definitely interesting.”
Some observers pointed out the object’s resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken, a US artist who lived for a time in nearby New Mexico, and died in 2011.
His son, Patrick McCracken, told the Times recently that his father had told him in 2002 that he would “like to leave his artwork in remote places to be discovered later.”
Although officials had refused to disclose the object’s location out of fear that hordes of curious sightseers would flock to the remote wilderness, some explorers had been able to track it down.
Instagram user David Surber said he trekked to the monolith using coordinates posted on Reddit.
“Apparently the monolith is gone,” he posted later.
“Nature returned back to her natural state I suppose. Something positive for people to rally behind in 2020.”