Irish MPs CHEER as Biden cleans up rugby gaffe

Irish MPs CHEER as Biden tells parliament his children should play rugby instead of American football and cleans up his ‘Black and Tans’ gaffe by describing how Ireland beat the New Zealand All Blacks

  • President Biden met his Irish counterpart Michael Higgins on Thursday in Dublin
  • In the afternoon he addressed a joint session of the Irish parliament 
  • It gave him a chance to clean up his rugby gaffe, to the delight of lawmakers 

President Biden cleaned up his rugby gaffe on Thursday evening, getting a huge cheer from Irish lawmakers when he finally got the right nickname for the New Zealand rugby team.

He threatened a diplomatic spat a day earlier by calling them not the ‘All Blacks’ but the ‘Black and Tans,’ a British security force that brutalized the Irish in the early 1920s.

But he was able to clear up the mess with plenty of sugar, even saying he wanted his own children to play rugby.

‘I always have a little bit of Ireland close by, even when I’m in Washington,’ he told his audience of supportive members of the Irish parliament.

‘In the Oval Office. I have the rugby ball signed by the Irish rugby team, the ball the team played when they beat … the All Blacks in Chicago.’

President Joe Biden had his audience in stitches as he cleaned up his rugby gaffe by referring emphatically to the All Blacks, not the Black and Tans, in a speech at the Irish parliament

He described how his cousin Rob Kearney was part of the Irish rugby team that famously beat New Zealand in Chicago in 2016, something that saw him muddle his color-based nicknames

He delivered the line with the conviction of an Irishman who knew he had to make amends. 

And his audience loved the moment. They erupted into cheers and laughter, acknowledging his good natured effort to correct the mistake. 

The gaffe had amused much of his Irish audience, but in Northern Ireland it risked angering pro-London unionists who saw it as another example of Biden’s suspicions about the British.

He addressed Irish MPs at the end of his first full day in the Irish capital, meeting the president and prime minister at their residences.

‘Mr. President, today you are amongst friends because you are one of us,’ said  Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Ceann Comhairle or speaker of the lower house Dáil Éireann.

Biden riffed on the idea of rugby, as he described how his cousin was an acclaimed rugby player who presented him with the ball. 

‘I didn’t play it very well …,’ said Biden, ‘but I did play American football and a few other sports but I realised that you know, you guys are all nuts. 

‘The interesting thing is, I’d rather have my children playing rugby now for health reasons than I would have been playing football. Fewer people get hurt playing rugby and you have no equipment.’

The Black and Tans were a British security force deployed during the Irish War of Independence a century ago. They became infamous for their brutality against republicans, Catholics and pretty much anyone else who got in their way

President Joe Biden reviews the troops as he meets with Irish President Michael Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain, the presidential residence

Biden’s son Hunter also attended, arriving hand in hand with Biden’s sister Valerie

He said there seemed to be fewer head injuries than in football. 

It was a day of official business after meeting relatives in Co. Mayo. 

Officials say Biden is having the time of his life reconnecting with his Irish heritage.

But they also had to play clean-up on the gaffe from a day earlier.

The White House even cleaned up its official transcript of the event at a restaurant in Dundalk, Co. Louth, striking through the words ‘Black and Tans’. 

‘He was a hell of a rugby player, and he beat the hell out of the [All Blacks],’ read the record of his comments about his cousin Rob Kearney, part of a team that defeated New Zealand in Chicago in 2016.

In fact he had claimed, in adlibbed comments, that Kearney had beaten up on the Black and Tans. 

The Black and Tans were a British auxiliary security force deployed during the Irish War of Independence a century ago.

They became infamous for their brutality against republicans, Catholics and anyone else who got in their way. 

The force was responsible for shooting dead 14 people and wounding 60 more at a Gaelic football match at Croke Park in Dublin in 1920. 

Biden has spoken about learning stories of their notoriety from his anti-British great aunt Gertie.

And his slip of the tongue was quickly taken as another sign that Biden harbors hostility towards the UK. 

It almost threatened to overshadow his work in Belfast earlier, when he managed to carefully walk a tightrope of sectarian sensitivity with a well-received speech.

In Dublin, a day later he arrived at the residence of President Michael Higgins for a formal welcome.

‘I’m not going home,’ said a beaming Biden as he signed the visitors book. ‘I’m staying here

‘Isn’t this incredible American reporters? Just like the White House, right?’

He and the Irish president fended off shouted questions about a major security leak that is roiling Washington. 

Biden was met by Higgins and his wife Sabina at the president’s residence Aras an Uachtarain

Biden signed his host’s guest book with an Irish proverb, ‘Your feet will bring you to where your heart is,’ and joked that he never wanted to go home

The visit resumed outside, where Biden rang a ‘peace bell,’ forged for the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement which ended decades of conflict on the island of Ireland.

And he followed in the footsteps of other VIP visitors by planting a tree in the ground of Aras an Uachtarain, as the Irish president’s residence is known.

From there it was on to a meeting with Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister or Taoiseach.

Varadkar praised his guest for his leadership in the war in Ukraine.

‘Democracy and liberty and the things that we believe in are on retreat, or in retreat, in large parts of the world, and if it wasn’t for American leadership, and if it wasn’t for America and Europe working together, I don’t know what kind of world we’d live in,’ he said.

Biden who met with the Irish leader in Washington on St Patrick’s Day, praised Irish values and the country’s acceptance of thousands of Ukrainian refugees as he spoke of a ‘stronger and stronger relationship’ between the US and Ireland. 

A day earlier he delivered a speech on his Irish roots, but in praising a rugby playing cousin had managed to refer to the New Zealand rugby team as ‘the Black and Tans,’ the feared British security force.

‘I think for everyone in Ireland who was a rugby fan, it was incredibly clear that the president was talking about the All Blacks and Ireland’s defeat of the New Zealand team in 2016,’ said Amanda Sloat, senior National Security Director for Europe, during a morning briefing. 

The slip had threatened to overshadow Biden’s cross-border activities a day earlier, when he had to walk the fine line of keeping Northern Ireland Protestant and Catholic communities happy.

But referencing the hated British force quickly inflamed pro-London unionists in the north. 


President Joe Biden managed to muddled the feared Black and Tans security forces of the 1920s with the New Zealand ruby team (the All Blacks) on Wednesday

The White House put out a corrected transcript on Wednesday night



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. 


It almost took the shine off a decent day’s work by Biden. He arrived in Belfast amid political deadlock, with unionists worried that such a pro-Irish president did not understand their position.

Instead he used a speech at Ulster University to talk up his British roots and to say that politics in Northern Ireland was a matter for the people of Northern Ireland.

‘We’ve gotten incredibly positive feedback from from all communities and political sides there,’ said Sloat. 

‘I think, a really important message for the president to be able to deliver to the people of Northern Ireland.’

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden ‘had the time of his life’ later in the day when he crossed the border and met up with relatives in Co. Louth. 

Thursday is a day of official business: meetings with the Irish president and prime minister, followed by a speech to the Irish parliament. 

That makes him the fourth president to address a joint session of the Irish parliament after Kennedy in 1963, Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Bill Clinton in 1995. 

Officials said the speech will focus on ‘US -cooperation to advance democracy, peace, security and prosperity, as well as the deep shared history between the US and Ireland.’

It will followed by a state banquet at Dublin Castle.

On Friday it is more family time. Biden will travel west to see family in Ballina, Co. Mayo, and deliver a speech to an expected crowd of about 20,000 people.

Biden meets distant cousins inside the Windsor Bar and Restaurant on Wednesday evening

Biden’s motorcade leaving Carlingford, Co. Louth on Wednesday afternoon

Biden’s maternal line emigrated from Ireland during the Great Famine. The Blewitts left Co. Mayo and settled in Scranton, PA, while the Finnegans left Co. Louth and came to New York

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