Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 August 2015

From Kennedy to Barack - Ireland enchanted by charismatic Obama

Published 23/05/2011 | 19:52

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama meet members of the public in College Green, Dublin
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama meet members of the public in College Green, Dublin
US President Barack Obama gives a speech in College Green, Dublin, during his visit to Ireland at the start of a week-long tour of Europe. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 23, 2011. See PA story IRISH Obama. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama meet members of the public in College Green, Dublin, during their visit to Ireland at the start of a week-long tour of Europe. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 23, 2011. See PA story IRISH Obama. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama take the stage before President Obama speaks at College Green in Dublin, Ireland, Monday, May 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at College Green in Dublin, Ireland, Monday, May 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
MONEYGALL, IRELAND - MAY 23: U.S. President Barack Obama greets the locals in his ancestral home of Moneygall alongside First Lady Michelle Obama (L) on May 23, 2011 in Moneygall, Ireland. U.S. President Obama is visiting Ireland for one day at the start of a week long tour of Europe. He will meet with distant relatives in Moneygall and speak at a rally in central Dublin after a concert. (Photo by Irish Government - Pool/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - MAY 23: US President Barack Obama speaks at a rally in College Green on May 23, 2011 in Dublin, Ireland. U.S. President Obama is visiting Ireland for one day. Earlier he met with Irish President Mary McAleese, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland Enda Kenny and visited his ancestral home in Moneygall, County Offaly. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
US President Barrack Obama and his wife Michelle arrive at Dublin Airport on at the start of his visit to Ireland, with Dan Rooney (centre), Patricia Rooney (2nd left), and Eamonn Gilmore (3rd right). PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 23, 2011. See PA story IRISH Obama. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire
US President Barack Obama,walks with Irish President Mary McAleese, followed by her husband Dr Martin McAleese and First Lady Michelle Obama (both hidden) at Aras an Uachtarain, Phoenix Park, prior to a tree planting ceremony, during President Obama's visit to Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 23, 2011. See PA story IRISH Obama. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle in Moneygall, County Offaly, during his visit to Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 23, 2011. See PA story IRISH Obama. Photo credit should read: Maxwells/PA Wire
US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle greet well wishers in Moneygall, County Offaly, during his visit to Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 23, 2011. See PA story IRISH Obama. Photo credit should read: Maxwells/PA Wire
US First Lady Michelle Obama greets well wishers in Moneygall, County Offaly, during his visit to Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 23, 2011. See PA story IRISH Obama. Photo credit should read: Maxwells/PA Wire
US President Barack Obama greets well wishers in Moneygall, County Offaly, during his visit to Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 23, 2011. See PA story IRISH Obama. Photo credit should read: Maxwells/PA Wire
DUBLIN, IRELAND - MAY 23: Fionnuala Kenny (L), the Taoiseach Enda Kenny's wife, and lady Michelle Obama walk in the garden at Farmeligh May 23, 2011 in Dublin, Ireland. U.S. President Barack Obama is on a one-day visit to Ireland, where will meet with distant relatives in Moneygall and then speak at a rally in central Dublin after a concert. (Photo by Irish Government-Pool /Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - MAY 23: Fionnuala Kenny (L), the Taoiseach Enda Kenny's wife, and lady Michelle Obama walk in the garden at Farmeligh May 23, 2011 in Dublin, Ireland. U.S. President Barack Obama is on a one-day visit to Ireland, where will meet with distant relatives in Moneygall and then speak at a rally in central Dublin after a concert. (Photo by Irish Government-Pool /Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - MAY 23: Fionnuala Kenny (L), the Taoiseach Enda Kenny's wife, and lady Michelle Obama walk in the garden at Farmeligh May 23, 2011 in Dublin, Ireland. U.S. President Barack Obama is on a one-day visit to Ireland, where will meet with distant relatives in Moneygall and then speak at a rally in central Dublin after a concert. (Photo by Irish Government-Pool /Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - MAY 23: Fionnuala Kenny (C), the Taoiseach Enda Kenny's wife, shows first lady Michelle Obama (R) an embroidered panel depicting the Norman Invasion during a tour of Farmeligh House May 23, 2011 in Dublin, Ireland. U.S. President Barack Obama is on a one-day visit to Ireland, where will meet with distant relatives in Moneygall and then speak at a rally in central Dublin after a concert. (Photo by Irish Government-Pool /Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - MAY 23: Fionnuala Kenny (R), the Taoiseach Enda Kenny's wife, shows first lady Michelle Obama a copy of topographia Hibernia from the Benjamin Iveagh Library during a tour of Farmeligh House May 23, 2011 in Dublin, Ireland. U.S. President Barack Obama is on a one-day visit to Ireland, where will meet with distant relatives in Moneygall and then speak at a rally in central Dublin after a concert. (Photo by Irish Government-Pool /Getty Images)
MONEYGALL, IRELAND - MAY 23: U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet the locals in his ancestral home of Moneygall alongside First Lady Michelle Obama (L) on May 23, 2011 in Moneygall, Ireland. U.S. President Obama is visiting Ireland for one day at the start of a week long tour of Europe. He will meet with distant relatives in Moneygall and speak at a rally in central Dublin after a concert. (Photo by Irish Government - Pool/Getty Images)
MONEYGALL, IRELAND - MAY 23: U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet the locals in his ancestral home of Moneygall alongside First Lady Michelle Obama (L) on May 23, 2011 in Moneygall, Ireland. U.S. President Obama is visiting Ireland for one day at the start of a week long tour of Europe. He will meet with distant relatives in Moneygall and speak at a rally in central Dublin after a concert. (Photo by Irish Government - Pool/Getty Images)
MONEYGALL, IRELAND - MAY 23: U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet the locals in his ancestral home of Moneygall alongside First Lady Michelle Obama (L) on May 23, 2011 in Moneygall, Ireland. U.S. President Obama is visiting Ireland for one day at the start of a week long tour of Europe. He will meet with distant relatives in Moneygall and speak at a rally in central Dublin after a concert. (Photo by Irish Government - Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama is presented with a hurley from Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Farmleigh, Dublin
US President Barack Obama's visit to Ireland, May 2011
US President Barack Obama with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Farmleigh, Dublin, where the two held talks.
First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr Martin McAleese, US President Barack Obama and Irish President Mary McAleese, meet school children, Onyedita Ukachukwu 8, Colm Dunne 9 and Margaret McDonagh 10, at Aras an Uachtarain, Phoenix Park, following a tree planting ceremony, during President Obama's visit to Ireland.
US President Barack Obama is greeted by Irish President Mary McAleese, at Aras an Uachtarain during President Obama's visit to Ireland.
US President Barack Obama with Irish President Mary McAleese walking in the Francini corridor at Aras an Uachtarain during President Obama's visit to Ireland.
US President Barack Obama with Dr Martin McAleese at Aras an Uachtarain during President Obama's visit to Ireland.
US President Barack Obama,(centre) walks with Irish President Mary McAleese, followed by her husband Dr Martin McAleese and First Lady Michelle Obama, at Aras an Uachtarain, Phoenix Park, Dublin
US President Barack Obama, Irish President Mary McAleese, her husband Dr Martin McAleese, and First Lady Michelle Obama, at Aras an Uachtarain during President Obama's visit to Ireland.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama's signatures in the visitors book at Aras an Uachtarain Phoenix Park in Dublin, during the President's visit to Ireland.
President of Ireland Mary McAleese, US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr Martin McAleese, at Aras an Uachtarain as President Obama and Michelle Obama sign the visitors book during the President's visit to Ireland.
President of Ireland Mary McAleese, US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr Martin McAleese, at Aras an Uachtarain as President Obama and Michelle Obama sign the visitors book during the President's visit to Ireland.
President Barack Obama, left, holds and swings a hurling stick as Ireland's Taoiseach Enda Kenny looks on.
US President Barack Obama's visit to Ireland, May 2011
US President Barack Obama's visit to Ireland, May 2011
A US military helicopter manoeuvres at Dublin airport ahead of the arrival of US President Barack Obama.
A member of the President's entourage is seen at Dublin airport ahead of the arrival of US President Barack Obama.
Two US Marines are seen at Dublin airport ahead of the arrival of US President Barack Obama.
Two US Marines are seen at Dublin airport ahead of the arrival of US President Barack Obama.
The President of the United States and his First Lady
Barack Hussein Obama
Stephanie Casillas takes a picture of Maya Landry, 3, in a John McCain mask and Alex Vincelette, 3, in an Obama mask while their preschool class visits the Arroyo Vista Park polling place in Moorpark, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/The Ventura County Star, James Glover II)
President-elect Barack Obama, left, his wife Michelle Obama, right, and two daughters, Malia, and Sasha, center left, wave to the crowd at the election night rally in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
President-elect Barack Obama kisses wife, Michelle, after his acceptance speech at his election night party at Grant Park in Chicago, Tuesday night, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., addresses supporters at a rally in Manassas, Va., Monday, Nov. 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
*** CORRECTS NAME OF PHOTOGRAPHER *** University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students celebrate on the Alma Mater after Obama was announced the president-elect early Wednesday morning, Nov. 5, 2008 in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/The Daily Illini - Ramzi Dreessen)
Supporters of President-elect Barack Obama cheer in the streets in downtown Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Stacie Freudnberg)
Dennis Caudill, of Crown Point, Indiana, places a sign supporting Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on the mantle at the home of Palin friends Brad and Kristan Cole, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, in Wasilla, Alaska. Caudill was part of a group of McCain supporters and friends from across the country gathered to watch election returns in Wasilla. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, is joined by Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, during a rally with supporters on election night in Phoenix, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Joan Crecca kisses a life size cutout of presidential candidate John McCain at the Republican election party in Bellevue, Wash on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. Crecca's husband Joe was a POW in Viet Nam at the same time as McCain. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

US President Barack Obama defied his strict security schedule to extend his electrifying Irish ancestral homecoming.

In scenes evoking the 1963 visit of John F Kennedy, Mr Obama sparked a frenzy by breaking away from his entourage to embrace many of the hundreds who lined Moneygall's single street.

Along with his wife Michelle, he stunned ecstatic well-wishers - who were warned there would be no walkabout - to clasp hands, sign autographs and pose for pictures.

Babies were passed over heads and crowd control barriers to father-of-two Mr Obama, who showed his natural parenting skills by instinctively hugging and gently rocking the children.

His easy manner was on display too in Ollie Hayes' pub - one of only two bars in the village his great-great-great-grandfather Fulmouth Kearney left for New York in 1850.

The president embraced distant relatives - including eighth cousin Henry Healy, and members of the Donovan and Benn families - before buying a round of drinks.

Waiting for his Guinness to settle, the world's most powerful man slapped down a note on the bar. "I just want you to know the president pays his bar tab," he said.

Mr Obama touched down at the local Gaelic games field in the Marine One helicopter as scheduled around 3pm, despite worries that heavy wind and rain would delay the hotly anticipated arrival.

Cheers erupted at the sight of the presidential motorcade streaming into the tiny village, and the Obamas made a beeline to hug Mr Healy as soon as they got out of their car.

The 26-year-old plumbing firm accounts manager - nicknamed Henry IV - is credited with pulling off the unlikely coup by inviting the president to come and see his ancestral birthplace after the links were discovered four years ago.

After visiting a house on the site where Mr Kearney lived, Mr Obama moved out of the rain into the pub where he spent almost half an hour delighting those lucky enough to get inside.

Local Church of Ireland vicar Canon Stephen Neill, who uncovered records in the home of an elderly parishioner in 2008 proving Mr Obama's connection to the village - population 300 - showed the famous visitor the documents.

Once they had posed for photographs, the president said: "And with that, let me have a pint."

In typical Irish pub fashion, one punter shouted back: "Yes, we can."

Taking time for his stout to settle - and a glass of the black stuff for the First Lady - Mr Obama told drinkers about his first pint, at Shannon Airport on his way to Afghanistan.

"It was the middle of the night, and I tried one of these and I realised it tastes so much better here than in the United States," he told his enthralled audience. "You're keeping all the best stuff here."

With that he delivered the traditional Irish salute "Slainte" and took a big swig to the delight of onlookers.

Not to be outdone by her husband, Ms Obama joined in the bar room banter, with a jibe about the advance security taking advantage of the hospitality.

"I just have one question: How often have our staff been in here?" she joked.

The president reeled off the names of several members of staff, drawing jeers and laughter from the packed pub.

After leaving, the president again worked the length of the ropeline, accepting kisses and embraces, before rolling out of town at almost 4.30pm.

Again in true Irish style, the schedule was cast aside: they had stayed an hour and a half, twice as long as planned.

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph