Obamas wow Moneygall crowd

 

US president Barack Obama has visited his ancestral home in Ireland.

Mr Obama and the first lady arrived this afternoon in Moneygall, Co Offaly, where up to 3,000 people lined the streets to welcome him home.

Mr Obama’s great-great-great-great-grandfather was a shoemaker in the rural village and his son, Falmouth Kearney, left for New York in 1850.

The couple’s short visit included a trip down Main Street to the Kearney ancestral home, where he will be greeted by John Donovan, the owner of the house, and his family.

They also visited Ollie Hayes’ pub to meet extended family members including representatives of the Healy, Donovan and Benn families.

The president and his wife visited Hayes’ pub and immediately settled in as though they were regulars, hugging distant relatives and toasting the guests.

In a quip to one of the women behind the bar, Mr Obama said: “You look beautiful. I suspect you don’t always dress up this much.”

Before lifting a pint of Guinness from the counter the president set the tone. “You tell me when it’s properly settled, I don’t want to mess this up,” he joked.

“I’ve been told that it makes a difference who the person behind the bar is. People are very particular who is pouring your Guinness. I am right about that? You people can vouch for this guy?” he asked the crowd in the bar.

As the president admired his pint and picked it up from the counter, he added: “So it’s quite an art. I want to get it perfect. Sláinte.”

The president relaxed straight into the pub atmosphere and took a gulp from the pint. “The first time I had a Guinness was when I was came into Shannon (Airport),” he said. “It was the middle of the night, and I tried one of these, and I realised it tastes so much better here than it was in the States. What I realised was, that you guys, that you are keeping all the best stuff. I’m very impressed.”

Publican Ollie Hayes said: “We have been waiting in hope for this very day and I can say that is without doubt one of the proudest days of my life.

“It’s not every day that the US President drops by our bar for a pint. It really is a remarkable day for all the community here in Moneygall. We are going to talk about this day for ever more as the day that Moneygall made history.”

There were concerns the trip to Moneygall would be interrupted by severe weather with gale force winds and driving rain threatening to force security chiefs to order his helicopter grounded.

But the Obamas touched down in sports fields just outside the village to travel the final few kilometres by car. The couple were greeted with huge cheers from several thousand onlookers.

The Obamas went walkabout among the crowds, shaking and clasping hands before the president lifted a baby to hold in his arms, and his wife followed suit with a second child.

The organisers of the historic event had warned that a meet and greet with the public was very unlikely but the couple spent 15 minutes with locals signing autographs, posing for pictures and shaking hands.

They then crossed the road to the site of Mr Obama’s ancestral home, where a one-storey thatched home once stood. There was a picture inside of what the house looked like and land records to show his ancestors owned it.

PA