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Irish PM invites Obama to visit ancestral home

Taoiseach Brian Cowen spoke with US President-elect Barack Obama for the first time last night and formally invited him to visit his ancestral home of Offaly.

In a statement, the Department of the Taoiseach said he had conveyed his congratulations to the President-Elect on his November 4 election in a phone conversation that lasted around 15 minutes.

"He stressed the importance the Irish government attaches to Ireland's relationship with the United States and expressed his desire that the relationship would continue to flourish in the coming years," the statement said.

"He told the President of his personal conviction that it was now a mature, two-way relationship and should be developed on that basis."

The Taoiseach also invited Mr Obama to visit the Republic during his term of office, a visit which would presumably include a trip to his native county where the President-elect's family can be traced to.

And Mr Cowen also briefed Mr Obama on yesterday's breakthrough in the devolution of justice and policing powers in Northern Ireland.

Last night, it was not known if the Taoiseach had raised concerns about a possible reduction in the level of US Foreign Direct Investment into Ireland because of Mr Obama's policies.

During the election campaign, the President-elect proposed that 1pc of taxable income should be credited to employers who make their headquarters in the US.

He has also proposed that the US Government would cover the cost of this tax break by having companies with subsidiaries abroad pay tax on profits earned overseas at the US rate of 35pc.

In recent weeks, Mr Cowen has insisted that he is confident US companies will continue to invest in Ireland.

"We have to wait until the new administration takes office to see what policies will be proposed by them. Clearly, we have a very strong trade and investment relationship with the United States which is a two-way mutually beneficial operation," he said two weeks ago.

"There are 70,000 people employed by Irish owned companies in the United States. We have 510 US companies in Ireland employing over 96,000 directly."

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