‘His hatred of the UK has hardly been concealed’: how British press covered Biden’s visit

Leprechaun cartoons and president’s coronation ‘snub’ feature amid scornful commentaries

A mixture of scorn and suspicion has marked the reaction in some quarters of the British media to US president Joe Biden’s visit to Ireland.

A cartoon in The Times by Peter Brookes harked back to the most dated Irish stereotypes. It is shows President Joe Biden dressed as a leprechaun dancing an Irish jig with a pint of Guinness in his hands.

This will be news to the avowedly teetotal American president who, for once when a famous visitor comes to Ireland, did not pose with a pint of Guinness in his hands. The Irish journalist Philip Nolan tweeted at Brookes: “Punch called. They want you back in 1867″.

Free pass

The Tory-supporting Daily Telegraph was particularly vituperative about the visit. Retired Colonel Richard Kemp accused the Irish Government of wanting others to pay for the country’s security.

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“President Biden’s visit to Ireland this week gifts the country an opportunity to sell itself to the world. Pomp, pubs and progressive values are the order of the day; a nation portraying itself as historically oppressed yet forward-thinking and open for business. Through such spin, it is inviting us to just ignore its woeful contributions to Western defence, the elephant in the room given the current war in Europe,” he wrote.

“While Biden spoke with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about the conflict in Ukraine, there is no evidence the President asked for anything tangible to support the Ukrainian war effort. When was the last time an American president included Ireland in their vocal – and justified – criticism of Europe for slacking on its commitments? The fact is, with so many American voters claiming Irish heritage, Ireland gets a free pass, something it shamelessly exploits.”

Deliberate snub

The cheerleaders for Brexit have been among the most acerbic about the trip. Daily Telegraph contributor Nile Gardiner echoed Arlene Foster’s comments that the US president had insulted the UK by prioritising Ireland over his own country.

Mr Gardiner, the director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at US right-wing think tank The Heritage Foundation, contrasted President Biden’s four-day trip to Ireland with his refusal to attend the coronation of King Charles III.

“His decision not to attend the Coronation is not an issue of advancing age, difficulty of scheduling, or an unwillingness to spend time away from pressing domestic duties at home. It is a deliberate snub of the Royal Family.

“Yet the harsh reality remains that America today is led by a petty and at times vindictive president, who thinks nothing of lecturing Britain over its Northern Ireland policy, and issuing stark warnings to Downing Street that a US/UK trade deal will not be on the agenda unless it plays ball over Irish issues and the EU.”

Inherited grievance

Lee Cohen in the Spectator wrote that while most US presidents pride themselves on being “American as apple pie”, “Biden identifies as ‘Irish as Paddy’s pig’. There are some in America, where those of Irish descent are a significant demographic, who find this quaint. But indulging his distant inherited grievance at the cost of a strong relationship with Britain, our most stalwart of allies, is pernicious and self-indulgent.

“Biden was steeped in the exaggerated but dated folklore of Irish grudge. It then suited his local political rise to push the Irish persona, playing off the popular and political esteem for the Kennedys, even as that family left any anti-British grievances behind.”

The presenters of the right-wing news channel GBNews took umbrage at the fact that Mr Biden had the audacity to spend so long in Ireland.

“Biden’s immense hatred of the United Kingdom has barely been concealed on his gaffe-plagued tour of Ireland,” said Dan Wootton. New Zealand-born Wootton played the “Black and Tans” clip several times.

“There can be no more excuses for him remaining the West’s most powerful man.”

Jolly holiday

According to The Sun newspaper, Mr Biden’s visit to Ireland was “less the hand of history, more the hand of his re-election team.

“Rather than driving to break the political deadlock in Northern Ireland, Biden seemed to be enjoying one big jolly holiday.”

The Times contributor Mark Piggott, who has an Irish grandfather, wrote that the American president is nostalgic for an Ireland that no longer exists.

“Over time, as I matured, my feelings began to change; not so much about my roots, as about Ireland itself. I visited more frequently and realised that the Auld Sod of my imagination – and seemingly of Biden’s ancestors – was long gone, if indeed it had ever existed. In its place I found a modern European country, with an increasingly diverse population. Ireland’s Taoiseach is a gay man of Indian descent; religion, at least of the Catholic variety, is in terminal decline after decades of scandal.

“Last weekend in Cork we visited the multi-ethnic Marina Market and ate Mexican fajitas while drinking American beer and watching English football on a Japanese TV. Like it or not, this is the new Ireland. When Biden jokes about the Irish being drunk and says things like, “I may be Irish, but I’m not stupid,” it’s hard to know whether he has any understanding of the place at all.”

‘No comment’

The Guardian’s Martin Kettle welcomed the president’s visit. “This week’s attempt by the DUP to cast Biden as an interfering Irish nationalist is simply false. It helps no one to pretend this. There is no doubt that Washington and London would have preferred the 25th anniversary of powersharing to have been more full throated.

“But the fault for that does not lie with the man in the White House. It lies with those who created the post-Brexit logjam of the peace process but who have absolutely no strategy at all for ending it.”

Former UK Labour Party spindoctor Alastair Campbell, who is co-presenter of the popular podcast, The Rest is Politics, tweeted out a picture of President Biden having a frosty coffee break with British prime minister Rishi Sunak. He contrasted that with the pictures of Taoiseach Leo Vardakar and President Biden at Farmleigh and added the words “no comment”.

He later tweeted: “Speaker of the Dáil Sean O’Fearghail getting applause from all sides for his description of Ireland as a modern progressive country with a welcoming attitude to immigrants. Had it been Westminster would have been shouted down by half the Tory Party.”

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