Tuesday 25 July 2017

President Obama: 'Tell Ireland I'm coming to visit again'

Thirsty work: Michelle and Barack Obama enjoy a drink of Guinness at Ollie Hayes Bar in Moneygall, Co Offaly - the president's ancestral home - on their previous trip to Ireland in 2011 Photo: MAXWELLS DUBLIN
Thirsty work: Michelle and Barack Obama enjoy a drink of Guinness at Ollie Hayes Bar in Moneygall, Co Offaly - the president's ancestral home - on their previous trip to Ireland in 2011 Photo: MAXWELLS DUBLIN
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Outgoing US President Barack Obama came to Ireland five years ago in search of the apostrophe missing from his surname - and now it looks as though he is planning a return.

Obama, who has family roots in Moneygall, Co Offaly, is leaving the White House in just under two weeks' time and is expected to make the trip here in the next 12 months.

The plans were confirmed by the outgoing US ambassador to Ireland Kevin O'Malley yesterday.

The pair spoke last Wednesday as O'Malley is due to vacate his post on January 20 when Donald Trump is inaugurated.

"The last sentence that the president said to me on Wednesday when we were saying goodbye was, 'Please tell 'em I'm coming'," O'Malley told Marian Finucane on RTE Radio.

"So I think that's the president's way of saying informally that you'll probably see him again.

"My guess is in the coming year or so."

Obama's eighth cousin Henry Healy, who is operations manager at Barack Obama Plaza, said there was a buzz around Moneygall yesterday after news of the impending visit broke.

"It is great that the president confirmed this news as late as Wednesday because it shows a visit here is obviously very high on his agenda," he told the Sunday Independent.

"I am not surprised because he said on numerous occasions last St Patrick's Day when we were over at the White House that he was keen to come back here and show his daughters around Moneygall."

Mr Healy added there would be a ribbon waiting for Obama to cut in the service station named in his honour.

"It'll be hard for him to pass by the place and not have his curiosity sparked," he said.

"It has always been his intention to return and it is great to think we are likely to see him here again in near future."

Obama last visited Ireland with his wife Michelle in 2011, when the pair looked around his ancestral home and met his relatives over a pint of Guinness in Ollie Hayes Bar.

The couple then addressed a crowd of thousands at College Green, Dublin, where they spoke of the history and the strong relationship that exists between Ireland and the US.

"My name is Barack Obama, of the Moneygall O'bamas, and I've come home to find the apostrophe we lost somewhere along the way," he said at the time.

"We're peoples, the Irish and Americans, who never stop imagining a better future, even in bitter times.

"There has always been a bit of green behind the red white and blue."

Sunday Independent

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