Sunday 28 December 2014

Failte First Family: the Obamas touch down in Ireland

Published 17/06/2013 | 05:00

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle and their daughters Malia (14) and Sasha (12) have touched down in Belfast this morning. The President is due to attend the G8 summit in Fermanagh, but his wife and daughters are to head south of the border this morning.

The President is due to attend the G8 summit in Fermanagh, but his wife and daughters are to head south of the border this morning.

Meanwhile, a mini army of Shelbourne Hotel staff were giving the front facade of the famous old building a final wipedown – as gardai and American Secret Service agents hovered in the background.

Nothing was being left to chance – it was all hands on deck for the arrival of yet another famous visitor. This time it's Michelle Obama, the wife of US President Barack Obama.

She will be staying in the hotel – along with their daughters Malia (14) and Sasha (12) – while her husband discusses global affairs at the G8 summit about 160km up the road in deepest Fermanagh.

But yesterday afternoon both Shelbourne management and staff were staying strictly mum as the countdown to the arrival of its most famous guest in recent years got under way.

US President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One with his wife Michelle (second right) and daughters Sasha (second left) and Malia (right) upon arrival at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, to attend the G8 summit in Enniskillen
US President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One with his wife Michelle (second right) and daughters Sasha (second left) and Malia (right) upon arrival at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, to attend the G8 summit in Enniskillen
U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he leaves Air Force One with his daughter Sasha, after landing at Belfast International Airport, in Northern Ireland June 17, 2013.
US President Barack Obama exits Air Force One with his daughter Sasha upon arrival at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, to attend the G8 summit in Enniskillen
U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd R) with first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia (L) and Sasha (R) walk to Marine One upon their arrival on Air Force One in Belfast, Northern Ireland June 17, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia (R) and Sasha arrive in Belfast, Northern Ireland June 17, 2013
President Barack Obama waves as he arrives at Aldergrove International airport with his daughter Sasha, in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Monday, June 17, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia (R) and Sasha arrive in Belfast, Northern Ireland June 17, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wave as they depart Joint Base Andrews in Washington June 16, 2013. The Obamas are traveling to Northern Ireland where President Obama will attend the G8 summit
First lady Michelle Obama and daughters, Sasha Obama and Malia Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama waves to reporters as he departs, with his wife Michelle (L) and daughter Malia (2nd L), for Northern Ireland ahead of the G8 summit from the White House in Washington, June 16, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) boards the Marine One with his wife Michelle (C) and daughter Malia (R), as they depart for Northern Ireland ahead of the G8 summit, from the White House in Washington, June 16, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama walks with his daughter Malia and wife Michelle, as they depart for Northern Ireland ahead of the G8 summit, at the White House in Washington, June 16, 2013
President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and daughter Malia walk to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Sunday, June 16, 2013.

A number of gardai were strategically placed at the front and sides of the hotel.

And an array of prototype American Secret Service officers – complete with dark suits sunglasses and ear pieces – discretely kept a watchful an eye on arrivals and departures.

No expense has been spared in catering for the comforts of Mrs Obama and her party. It is understood she will stay in the luxurious €2,500-a-night Princess Grace suite.

It is understood a total of 30 rooms in the five-star, 265-bedroom hotel, have been booked for the visit of Mrs Obama and her entou- rage. During their stay in Dublin, Mrs Obama and and her daughters will visit Trinity College where they will view the Book of Kells.

Schoolchildren from Barack Obama's ancestral home in Moneygall, Co Offaly, have also been invited to attend a special performance of 'Riverdance' in Dublin's Gaiety .

Mrs Obama and Taoiseach Enda Kenny's wife Fionnuala O'Kelly will both address an audience of 1,000 schoolchildren at the theatre.

The speeches are expected to be informal and the two wives have built up a good relationship after meeting on four occasions in Washington and Dublin. The event will also be attended by President Micheal D Higgins's wife, Sabina, who is not speaking.

Sources are playing down the prospect of Mrs Obama going on an unplanned sightseeing and shopping trip in Dublin due to security considerations.

Tomorrow, Mrs Obama will visit Glendalough in Co Wicklow, before heading to Belfast.

Irish Independent

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