Thursday 14 November 2019

Expat makes long journey home from Big Apple to get bite of action

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

THE population of Moneygall is swelling.

Tony Donovan was barely off the plane from New York when he was already behind the counter selling Barack's brack, fresh milk and souvenir badges.

The Moneygall, Co Offaly, native -- who left Ireland for America in 1992 -- has returned home for the visit of US President Barack Obama.

He is not alone in that.

Mr Donovan just about had time to wolf down a sandwich and catch a quick nap yesterday before his brother John had recruited him.

John runs the store selling every class of souvenir to commemorate Mr Obama's visit, as well as pork chops, shoe polish, hardware goods and newspapers.

He also owns the home where Mr Obama's ancestors -- the Kearneys -- once lived on the village Main Street.


Tony Donovan was flat out in Donovan's shop yesterday as he served tourists, villagers and a group of Africans who stopped by to complain about third-level fees.

His long shift on the shop floor was only interrupted when he ran out on the street to take a photograph for his wife, Patty, who is expecting the couple's first arrivals, twins, in the US.

"Patty won't believe this, there's a traffic jam in Moneygall," he said. "And I thought this place had a bypass."

Tony's wife couldn't travel as her pregnancy is too advanced.

"I left Moneygall because there were no jobs," he said. "There was plenty of work but no jobs that paid. I absolutely love it there. I'm a supporter of the Democrats.

"I contributed to Hillary Clinton's senatorial campaign -- not her presidential campaign obviously as a Moneygall man -- but I backed Bill and Hillary's senatorial campaign," he added.

Some of the customers in Donovan's yesterday included twin girls from Somalia who stopped by draped in the Kenyan flag.

Nirmin Habib and Noore Habib, both aged 15, came to visit Moneygall with their dad, Mubarak, who promotes Irish tourism in Kenya. He has produced a map of Ireland, which now includes a stop in Moneygall, for tourist offices in Kenya.

Mr Obama, of course, also has strong Kenyan roots.

The African Students' Association of Ireland put on a musical and dance performance to honour and celebrate Mr Obama's visit to Ireland. They also took the opportunity to send a message to the Government on third-level fees.

"Fees are too high for the majority of us to afford relative to the economic performance of many of our countries," said co-ordinator of the African Students in Ireland David Nyaluke.

Foreign TV crews continued to flood into the village yesterday ahead of the president's arrival on Monday.

The Secret Service practised helicopter landings at the local GAA pitch yesterday afternoon.

Irish Independent

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