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Saturday 20 September 2014

Born on 4th of July: Obama centre opens in ancestral home

Kathryn Hayes

Published 05/07/2014 | 02:30

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Enda Kenny hugs Julia Hayes at the official opening of the President Barack Obama Visitor Centre in Moneygall, Co Offaly. Brian Gavin/Press 22
The President Barack Obama Visitor Centre in Moneygall.

IT may be three years on but the legacy of US president Barack Obama's visit to a small village in Co Offaly lives on.

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The people of Moneygall – population 320 – celebrated the 4th of July in true American style yesterday with the official opening of the President Barrack Obama Visitor Centre.

Situated at Junction 23 off the busy M7 motorway, the new centre is located in the Barack Obama Plaza – a new motorway services station halfway between Dublin and Limerick.

The €7m development, owned by businessman Pat McDonagh, is considered to be one of the biggest investments in the midlands in recent years and 85 people are employed at the new facility.

It's hoped the visitor centre will be an attraction for tourists who want to learn more about Mr Obama's ancestral links to Moneygall as well as the links of 22 former US presidents to Ireland.

Speaking at the official opening, Mr Obama's eighth cousin Henry Healy said the visit of the most powerful man in the world to his ancestral home has had huge benefits for the local community.

And the 29-year-old – who celebrated St Patrick's Day in the White House – hopes the Obamas will return to visit the tourist attraction.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny paid a brief visit to the centre later yesterday evening.

"We are always supportive of keeping our connections with the United States alive," Mr Kenny said.

Irish Independent

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