Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Obama Ireland speech to echo visit of Clinton as same venue is chosen

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

Barack Obama appears set for a repeat performance of his predecessor Bill Clinton by making a speech on College Green in Dublin during his visit next week.

Gardai vetoed the White House's idea of Mr Obama making a speech in front of Daniel O'Connell's statue on O'Connell Street because it would mean shutting down the Liffey quays for two days.

Security and logistics is blamed for a change of plan in Moneygall, Co Offaly, where Mr Obama was due to address villagers from an outdoor stage.

It now appears the US president will opt for a low-key meeting with his distant cousins and whizz through Moneygall Main Street, which is likely to be limited to residents and invited guests only. Mr Obama's officials are expected to announce details of his Irish itinerary later today.

College Green emerged from a shortlist of venues in the capital, which will include a concert and culminate in an address by the president. The shortlist also featured O'Connell Street, Trinity College's front square, Croke Park and the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. Mr Obama's officials were thought to be reluctant to opt for College Green as it would be seen as the same as former President Bill Clinton's event -- he addressed a crowd of tens of thousands there in 1995.

College Green will have to be closed off on Sunday and Monday in preparation for the event.

The preferred option of O'Connell Street would have involved placing a stage in front of the Daniel O'Connell monument with the crowd on the bridge, D'Olier Street and Westmoreland Street.

But gardai ruled this out as the quays are a main artery for traffic in and out of the city and closing them off would cause substantial disruption.

Mr Obama's officials want a venue that looks impressive and is distinctly Irish, but the US Secret Service is insisting on strict security.

Regardless of the chosen location, the thousands of people attending will have to go through security scans and face hours of queues. In Moneygall, there were mixed feelings last night about Mr Obama's new plan. "It certainly seems to have been scaled down significantly," said Canon Stephen Neill.

John Donovan's shop and Ollie Hayes's Bar are the only two venues that will remain open for the hour, meaning, it is most likely Mr Obama will be visiting both.

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