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Sunday 23 July 2017

Obama hints at a return visit to 'his' Moneygall

Anne-Marie Walsh

FOR one day at least, their hearts were in Ireland -- and it may not be too long before their children Malia and Sasha are too.

Close examination of the footage of US President Barack Obama's visit shows he enjoyed himself so much when he visited his ancestral home of Moneygall that he hinted at a return visit. "We'll have to bring our girls to see Moneygall," he can be heard telling the crowd not long after arriving there.

When he set foot in the Offaly town just after 3pm yesterday, Mr Obama embraced his distant relative Henry Healy, whom he later affectionately referred to as 'Henry the Eighth' during a speech at College Green.

As the sun came out after a morning of typical Irish weather, he could be heard telling the Moneygall welcoming committee: "The sun came out for us."

But despite meeting his next-of-kin, he could hardly wait to meet the crowds of locals who were frantic with excitement behind barriers nearby. "Shall we go say hello?" he asked his hosts, before he and wife Michelle walked to where around 3,000 locals had gathered. They shook almost every hand in the town.

"I love you back," Mr Obama called back to one enthusiastic fan.

Michelle was just as affectionate when a cheeky local in a black woolly hat shouted, "Give us a kiss," and she obliged.

When he arrived at the old home of his grandfather's grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, he seemed moved.

"So, here's the house," he said to his hosts, before disappearing inside. Not long afterwards, he made a short sprint into a local shop. Two Secret Service men who were outside shook their heads. "Mad," said one to the other, unaware that their comment had been picked up.

Shortly afterwards, at Ollie Hayes' pub, everyone wondered if Mr Obama would sup some of the black stuff. "Cheers. Guinness time!" he said to the crowd, before turning to his cousin Henry for a chat.

Hugged

As fiddle music started up, he knocked back a creamy pint of Guinness before posing for a family photo with his long-lost relatives, one of whom hugged Michelle and asked if she was cold. "Warm inside! Warm inside!" she replied.

Always a gentleman, the president constantly checked to see his wife was okay. He held her hand for support when it looked as if her heels might be sinking in the ground at Aras an Uachtarain.

The Taoiseach's wife Fionnuala Kenny complimented Michelle's outfit when they met. "Lovely dress," she said .

Later, when the two ladies arrived in Dublin before the president's speech at College Green, Michelle summed up their visit.

"An amazing day," she whispered to Fionnuala.

Irish Independent Supplement

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