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Obama's VP choice names Wolfe Tone as his hero

Joe Biden, Barack Obama's running mate, has a hero -- Irish revolutionary leader Wolfe Tone.

The 65-year-old Delaware senator and possible future vice president of the US is on record as saying the leader of the United Irishmen is a particular hero of his.

Wolfe Tone died from a self-inflicted wound after being sentenced to death for his part in the 1798 rebellion.

Now a US online website, the Irish Voice, has reprinted excerpts from a 1985 interview Biden gave to Niall O'Dowd for Irish America magazine.

The senator's first wife and infant daughter died in a car crash in 1972 and his two sons were seriously hurt. He survived two brain aneurysms in 1988.

The self-confessed Irish-American Catholic has read Irish history extensively.

"Wolfe Tone is the embodiment of some of the things that I think are the noblest of all," he said in the interview in which he gave the most extensive review of his roots and Irish heritage.

"He was a Protestant who formed the United Irishmen. He had nothing to gain on the face of it but he sought to relieve the oppression of the Catholics caused by the penal laws.

"He gave his life for the principle of civil rights for all people. I view him as an honourable figure. He was obviously passionate, which I admire. He had the ability to make his own comfort secondary to the greater good."

Senator Biden comes from a Famine-era family, the Finnegans, who fled Co Mayo to avoid the Great Hunger.

His great grandmother Finnegan was the only one who could read Gaelic and she used to read letters in Gaelic for those who could not read the letters from home.

The Biden name appeared to have come from a Huguenot family which had been traced to Liverpool in 1668. Joe Biden's father insisted the name was Irish but Biden was never able to confirm that.

Joe Biden was born in the Irish heartland of Scranton, Pennsylvania, one of the most Irish cities in America. Edward F Blewett, his grandmother's father, was the first Irish Catholic state senator, he said.

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