Sunday 29 March 2015

Gift offers flooding in as Obama fever grips Moneygall

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

Published 14/04/2011 | 05:00

MONEYGALL has been flooded with offers of gifts for US President Barack Obama ahead of his whirlwind visit to Ireland.

Businesses are trying to get a slice of the cake -- and have been enquiring non-stop about sending gifts to the president at his ancestral home in Co Offaly.

However, with security restrictions and strict protocols, many will not be given the chance to offer their products and services to Mr Obama.

Offaly County Manager Pat Gallagher met with US Ambassador Dan Rooney at the American Embassy in Dublin yesterday to discuss arrangements for the trip.

Security was tight almost six weeks out from the visit -- with officials at the embassy refusing yesterday to confirm or deny that the planned meeting had even taken place.

Mr Obama's official itinerary has not yet been made public, but the Irish Independent understands his preferred date to travel is May 23. His popularity is likely to soar among the Irish-American vote in the US when he addresses the Irish people at a rally in Croke Park.

Packed

Mr Obama will visit Moneygall before returning to Dublin, where he is expected to stay the night before leaving for Britain the next day. There is still a possibility that the president may change the date of his visit to Sunday, May 22. This would ensure a packed attendance at the national GAA stadium.

A metal sculpture, unique slate from Galway and hand-crafted crystal are just a few of the presents which companies are asking about sending to Moneygall for Mr Obama.

Enquiries have been so hectic that Mr Obama's Irish eighth cousin, Henry Healy, has set up a special email address -- moneygallvillage@gmail.com -- where firms can contact the parish committee.

Mr Healy is one of a group of villagers that have formed a committee to plan for the visit.

"We are making lots of progress in the village," he said. "We have new lines painted on the road, the pavements are being repaired by the council, we still have the gardening, painting and flowerbeds to do.

"The Tidy Towns are organising the hanging baskets and we have 80 volunteers signed up since the first public meeting to help out. We'll do the national spring clean with An Taisce."

While villagers are still in the dark about the entertainment schedule, they have been rehearsing with traditional Irish music sessions or "seisiun ceoil" in Ollie Hayes's bar every week.

Irish Independent

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