Obama to honour O'Connell with massive rally in capital
Published 06/05/2011 | 05:00
US PRESIDENT Barack Obama is planning a massive rally on O'Connell Street in Dublin City Centre during his 24-hour visit to Ireland later this month, the Irish Independent has learnt.
Mr Obama is understood to be keen to address a large public gathering during his whistlestop tour.
But the tight schedule means the plans are repeatedly changing.
The latest draft includes a public speech on O'Connell Street on the evening of Monday, May 23, a Government source said.
The president will also meet President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Enda Kenny, along with a visit to his ancestral home in Moneygall, Co Offaly.
Mr Obama is known to be a fan of O'Connell, largely because of his opposition to slavery.
"He wants to do a public event and the Americans like the idea of O'Connell Street as the symbolic heart of Ireland. He is a big fan of O'Connell," the source said.
The itinerary is constantly changing but this is the latest plan, subject to security and logistical clearance, the source said.
Holding a rally to be attended by tens of thousands of people in Dublin would present enormous security issues.
Plans for a rally at Croke Park have been parked as the US leader will not arrive in Dublin on Sunday evening, as previously thought.
The president will arrive into Dublin on Monday, May 23, with a packed schedule before he heads to London the following day on a State visit hosted by Queen Elizabeth II. Mr Obama is aware of the status of O'Connell 'The Liberator' as an Irish patriot and creator of Catholic emancipation.
But O'Connell was also involved in assisting anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass -- a hero of Mr Obama's -- when he fled to Ireland in the 1840s to escape slave catchers.
An earlier draft of the schedule had Mr Obama visiting the tomb of O'Connell in Glasnevin Cemetary.
Instead, Mr Obama is now planning to pay tribute by delivering a speech on the country's main street.
The president is also aware of the historic symbolism of the 1916 Easter Rising, which started in the GPO on O'Connell Street.
Former US president Bill Clinton held a rally at College Green in the late 1990s.
During one of his visits to the White House, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen referred to O'Connell's rallies in the mid 1800s.
Mr Cowen drew comparisons with Mr Obama's ability to draw large crowds wherever he spoke.
> MONDAY, MAY 23
Mr Obama arrives at Dublin Airport on board Air Force One.
Meets with President Mary McAleese at Aras an Uachtarain
Meets with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Cabinet at Farmleigh House
Flies by helicopter to Moneygall,
Flies back to Dublin
Possible O’Connell St rally
Dinner hosted by Taoiseach in
> TUESDAY, MAY 24
Departs for State visit in London