US President Joe Biden has credited his trip to Ireland with reinforcing his rationale for an expected run for a second term in office.
Mr Biden has already indicated his plan to run for the presidency again in 2024 but has not yet officially announced it.
At the close of a historic four-day trip to the island of Ireland, Mr Biden said the announcement would be made “relatively soon”.
He said the Irish trip had not affected the timing of an announcement. But he added: “We’ll announce it relatively soon. But the trip here just reinforced my sense of optimism about what can be done.”
On his final public engagement of the visit, dubbed a homecoming for a President who is fiercely proud of his Irish ancestry, Mr Biden declared that the US and Ireland are “united by history, heritage and hope”.
The President said his trip to the town “feels like coming home” and told spectators millions of Americans claim to have Irish heritage, adding: “More would if they could.”
Emphasising his link to the area, he said: “Over the years, stories of this place have become part of my soul, part of my family lore.”
Earlier on Friday, the American President become emotional during a visit to Knock shrine following a chance meeting with priest Fr Frank O’Grady, who gave the last rites to his son Beau Biden before he died of brain cancer in 2015.
His emotion-filled final day also saw Mr Biden visit the Mayo Roscommon Hospice, where there is a plaque in memory of his late son.
Telling the crowd in Ballina about his visit to the centre, the President said: “I can tell you how special it is that a piece of his legacy lives here among his ancestors.
“Thinking about it I could hear my dad’s voice again. He’d always say: ‘Joe, remember family is the beginning, the middle and the end.’
“The beginning, middle and end, that’s the Irish of it.”
“Everything between Ireland and America runs deep,” he said.
“Our history, our heritage, our sorrows, our future, our friendship. But more than anything, hope is what beats in the hearts of all our people.
“For centuries during times of darkness and despair, hope has kept us marching forward toward a better future, one of greater liberty, greater dignity and greater possibilities.”
The President’s son Hunter Biden and sister Valerie Biden Owens sat in the front row of the VIP section to the side of the stage for the speech.
Mr Biden’s tour of Ireland saw him return to his ancestral roots, with visits to both Co Louth and Co Mayo.
He also visited Belfast in Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday peace accord and became the fourth US president to address the Irish parliament in Dublin.