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Villager makes Obama visit T-shirts

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Billy Hayes with Barack Obama T-shirts in his shop in Moneygall, Co Offaly

Billy Hayes with Barack Obama T-shirts in his shop in Moneygall, Co Offaly

Billy Hayes with Barack Obama T-shirts in his shop in Moneygall, Co Offaly

An entrepreneur is trying to buck the recession and capitalise on President Barack Obama's visit to his Irish ancestral village by designing commemorative T-shirts.

Billy Hayes has set up shop in Moneygall, Co Offaly, to print and sell the keepsakes with a variety of logos including "What's the Craic Barack" and "Is feidir linn" - Gaelic for 'Yes we can'.

Obama fever is sweeping the village with locals repairing pavements and painting houses ahead of the president's arrival later this month.

Mr Hayes' great aunt Julia Hayes, who runs a local pub with her husband Joe, said news of the visit was already attracting curious tourists.

"We're all on a high for the last month or more and we're working hard with painters, decorators, you name it," said Ms Hayes, who turns 80 this week.

"We're so excited now, everyone, no matter who you meet, everyone is in great order."

Ms Hayes, whose pub stands opposite her brother-in-law's, Ollie Hayes, has had the business spruced up for the visit.

"All I have to do now is meet the president and I hope to God I'll be able to shake his hand," she said.

"If I don't I'll die. I'm really looking forward to shaking his hand."

Mr Hayes has come up with around 15 designs for the T-shirts, including a commemorative one with an image of Ireland and the president's face, with the dates of the visit to be inscribed below it when they are eventually revealed.

PA