Friday, May 20, 2011
Barack Obama is also Irish and the Irish love him
As Queen Elizabeth 2 ends her own first visit to Ireland, President Barack Obama begins his own.
President Barack Obama
He will be one of eight hundred thousand Americans expected to travel to Ireland this year, but his is perhaps the most historic one, because he is actually going back to his ancestral roots. Yes, Barack Obama is also Irish. Most people know him as a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, whose mother Ann Dunham Stanley came from Wichita, Kansas of mostly English descent with the roots of her family tree going as far back as Germany, Wales and of course Ireland where Obama will be welcomed with open arms in Moneygall, County Offaly the birthpace of his great-great-great grandfather Falmouth Kearney (who emigrated to the US in 1850, because of the potato famine). Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, was a descendant of one of Kearney's daughters, Mary Ann Kearney, and Jacob William Dunham. So, the Irish can also claim him and how amusing that would be to his kith and kin from his black African father Barack Obama, Sr., a Luo from Nyang'oma Kogelo, Nyanza Province, Kenya.
Obama's 24-hour visit to Ireland begins on Monday and will receive the warmest of Irish hospitality when he visits the Emerald Isle where hundreds of thousands of well wishers will line the streets to his ancestral village of Monegall in Co, Offaly where preparations to host him are already in full swing.
“We have huge connections with America and we look forward to deepening those in years to come and giving a warm Irish welcome to all the Americans that come here. There are 40 million people of Irish decent in America and we think they are going to be thrilled that President Obama is coming here and the genealogical connection is an indelible one and we are delighted that president Obama is coming here to discover his roots with us in Ireland,” said Niall Gibbons, CEO Tourism Ireland.
“Well, we traced back nine generations from the president, so we took Megan Smolenyak’s work and we took it back another four generations again, tracing it back to the late 1600s and that’s a real achievement in Irish Genealogy because so many of the records have been destroyed over the previous 300 years. The thing to remember as well, is that the president’s family, they weren’t rich, they weren’t anglo Irish, they were simply a regular family and to be able to trace them back was really quite something,” enthused Fiona Fitzsimons, Genealogist, Eneclann.
“We hope he will come and visit the school house behind me where his ancestors were educated. The ancestral home still stands in the village, that’s another important site, also Templeharry church. So there are three important sites within the area for anyone to come and visit, and of course it wouldn’t be a presidential visit to Ireland without a traditional stop off in the local pub for a pint of Guinness,” said Henry Healy, one of the 28 living Irish relatives of President Obama.
'The place is buzzing,' Majella Hayes, co-owner of Ollie Hayes bar in Moneygall, told the German Press Agency dpa.
'The atmosphere is electric. The bar is full of visitors and locals alike. There's nowhere to park your car in the village. There are hundreds of extra people around,' said Hayes, in whose bar President Obama is expected to sample a pint of Guinness on Monday afternoon. But a source at the White House doubts whether the president will drink it.
'There is a lot of work going on too with telephone lines and the likes being put in. This is not a tourist town, so we're not used to anything like this,' she added.
During his stay President Obama will also visit the capital city of Dublin where a huge celebration rally is planned according to Tourism Ireland.
Photo: The residents of Moneygall is in the grip of Obamania, because later this month Obama will be making a presidential pilgrimage here to discover his Irish roots. Photo: KIM HAUGHTON.
Photo: Dorma Lee Reese poses for a picture at her home in Tucson, Ariz., Wednesday, March 16, 2011. Reese, 83, a retired EEG technologist, learned about a year ago that she is a third cousin to President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson.)
According to Monsters & Critics, souvenir shops are springing up along with an Obama café, residents painting their houses, with one even painting the front of his house in the colours of the US flag. US flags are on display and tourists can buy t-shirts proclaiming 'Is feidir linn,' which means 'Yes, we can,' in Irish and 'What's the crack, Barack?'. There's also high-fibre, low-fat Obama bread on sale in the grocery shop.
Villagers have also been treated to repeated visits from men in dark glasses, making preparations for the stringent security arrangements and a man was quizzed for making death threats.
US president is also scheduled to address a crowd of villagers and visitors and meet the Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Monday morning and later attend a concert in the evening before making a speech at central Dublin's College Green, where former US President Bill Clinton addressed a crowd of tens of thousands in 1995.
About 12 per cent of Americans claim Irish ancestry, and Ireland has welcomed several US presidents to their ancestral homes since the visit of John F Kennedy in 1963.
Monsters & Critics reported that some cynics pointed out that Obama is only 1/32 Irish. But in Moneygall at least, in the words of a song in his honour, 'There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama.'
Barack Obama Is í an Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeilge grá dó sin.
~ By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima