Sunday 17 December 2017

Crash course in security for Obama's ancestral village

The truck that crashed into the shop front yesterday just weeks before the visit of President Obama
The truck that crashed into the shop front yesterday just weeks before the visit of President Obama

Eimear Ni Bhraonain and Barry Duggan

US President Barack Obama's 'ancestral' village of Moneygall was at the centre of a security scare yesterday after a truck packed with explosives crashed into a shop.

Fortunately, the explosives, which were destined for a nearby quarry, did not detonate.

But the incident, just weeks before Mr Obama's historic visit to Ireland, did spark a rash of conspiracy theories.

With all the talk of hidden cameras in Ollie Hayes' pub and the brief visit of Mr Obama's secret service team last month, Moneygall residents would be forgiven for thinking they were the targets of a sinister plot.

But there was an innocent explanation for the blare of sirens that shattered the peace in the sleepy Offaly village.

Cloughjordan man John Guidera, a lory driver, had accidentally crashed into Donovan's shop just before at 8am.

Residents who spoke to the driver described how he thought his brakes might have locked.

Mr Guidera was not seriously injured in the incident.

Despite the furore, shop owner John Donovan, who also happens to own the nearby Kearney homestead -- the house where Mr Obama's ancestors lived -- was unperturbed at the sight of the lorry embedded in his premises.

"We've seen it before in Moneygall. That's why we have no electricity poles on the edge of the paths," the laid-back businessman explained.


Mr Donovan's 12-year-old daughter, Rachel, and his wife, Clodagh, were upstairs in bed when they heard a bang.

"They got a huge fright. I was out bringing my son, who rides for Charlie Swan, to ride the mare before school, " he told the Irish Independent.

When Mr Donovan returned, he could see the "flashing lights" on Moneygall's Main Street.

"The firemen told me that if the lorry had gone on fire, the whole village would have been evacuated. I'm just glad everyone is OK and that the driver was not seriously injured. " he added.

North Tipperary Fire and Rescue Service senior assistant chief officer Eddie Ryan said they got the call at 7.40am.

"The area was cordoned off and there was never any danger to anybody," he said. "All precautions were taken while the material was removed from the truck and out of the area under garda supervision."

Mr Ryan confirmed that the materials were explosives but he said they were being transported correctly and had been held in separate compartments.

Mr Obama and First Lady Michelle are to visit his ancestral home on May 23.

Imaginations are running wild as plans are being kept hush-hush by the Americans ahead of the visit.

However, some locals speculated about the identity of one man seen in Moneygall over the past couple of days.

"There's a suited fella, a burly guy; we all thought he must be secret service," said publican Ollie Hayes.

"He had a white collar and was wearing a dark suit. But it turns out he's a breadman trying to see if there's any interest in Obama bread!"

Irish Independent

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