US team due in weeks to prepare for Obama trip


THE ADVANCE White House team is expected to arrive here within the next fortnight to prepare for the Irish visit of US president Barack Obama.

Meanwhile it has emerged that British prime minister David Cameron may accompany Queen Elizabeth on her forthcoming State visit, which is expected to take place from May 17th to 20th.

Although Mr Obama’s programme has not been finalised, it is considered likely that he will arrive in Dublin on the evening of May 22nd, visiting his ancestral home in Moneygall, Co Offaly, the next day and flying on to London after that.

The fact that Mr Obama will also be visiting Britain and France at about the same time is believed to be putting pressure on the resources of the US security services, who will have to cover all three countries.

As a result, the programme for Mr Obama’s visit is likely to involve a minimum number of locations, perhaps Dublin and his ancestral home at Moneygall.

There is also concern at the possibility of the president being filmed and photographed “with a pint in his hand”, given the seriousness of the international situation, as in Libya.

However, when inquiries were made to the US embassy in Dublin, a spokesman refused to comment on any details of the visit other than to say that it was “premature to speculate” about it.

Asked about reports that Mr Obama might only stay for five hours, which would be considered a public relations disappointment, the spokesman replied: “There is no official confirmation of the president’s itinerary here in Ireland or how long he will spend in the country.”

Earlier this week, one of the president’s senior advisers suggested to a major fundraiser with Irish connections that Mr Obama would spend only a few hours here.

The fundraiser went to the White House on March 28th to request that Mr Obama include a particular destination on his itinerary.

He was told that staff had pencilled in a five-hour stopover including Dublin and a helicopter trip to Moneygall, the home of Mr Obama’s ancestor, Falmouth Kearney.

Irish-American publisher Niall O’Dowd reported on his website that the White House is planning a “hot-minute” trip to Ireland, but qualified the news with the proviso that “the preliminary programme may well be altered significantly as the date of the trip looms”.

The same senior adviser said Mr Obama was going only to please the US ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney, whose support in the swing state of Pennsylvania was crucial to his election.

Mr Rooney is believed to be the only person capable of persuading Mr Obama to stay longer in Ireland since the trip is “basically a payback to Rooney”, said one observer.

Mr Obama said he would travel to Moneygall when he announced his trip on St Patrick’s Day.

He may also speak to a large group of young people, like Bill Clinton before him, at College Green, at Croke Park or the Aviva stadium.

Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, a rising star in the Democratic party, wrote to Mr Obama yesterday appealing to him to inaugurate a memorial to the African-American abolitionist, writer and statesman Frederick Douglass at University College Cork. On Tuesday, 45 of the 51 members of New York city council made the same request.

With regard to the visit of Queen Elizabeth, Mr Cameron told a St Patrick’s Day reception in the House of Commons that it was a very strong indication of the friendship between the two countries and he was sure it would be “a huge success”.