Wednesday 21 March 2018

Street party for all those without ticket to see Obama

Eimear Ni Bhraonain and Lynne Kelleher

PEOPLE unlucky to be denied access to the ancestral village of US President Barack Obama when he visits next month will be able to attend a street party instead -- but only after he has gone.

Details of who or how many will be invited for the president's actual appearance -- when the village will be in lockdown -- are not yet known.

But for those who miss out on a 'golden ticket', the inaugural Moneygall Festival will take place later on the same day.

The village committee and council officials met yesterday to discuss preparations so far.

It is expected that Mr Obama will be in Moneygall on Monday, May 23, although the itinerary has not yet been made public.

Local cleric Canon Stephen Neill received a letter from Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday saying the village would be notified of an official visit date as soon as the White House confirmed. "We don't think it's a security issue -- it's more logistics at this stage," said Canon Neill.

"Progress certainly seems to be going well. We're making lots of improvements and work is continuing at a pace never witnessed before."

Offaly County Council has agreed to help host the street party to cater for the thousands of people who may want to join in the celebrations.

It's understood the public will be allowed into Moneygall once official proceedings are over. However, numbers are likely to be restricted to around 5,000 for health and safety reasons.

The council is in talks with folk band The High Kings to play at the festival.


Meanwhile, Mr Obama's half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng said she was proud of the Irish blood in her family.

An assistant professor of education at the University of Hawaii, Ms Soetoro-Ng said she hoped the country enjoyed her older half-brother's visit.

"I hope to go to Ireland as well," she said. "It is a remarkable land. We have some Irish blood in us."

The 40-year-old mother of two -- who has just written a children's book in memory of her and the president's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham -- said she was touched to hear of her great, great grandfather's travels from Offaly to America.

"It is an extraordinary journey," she told Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio. "Part of the book I wrote is about remembering where we come from."

Ms Soetoro-Ng shared a home with Mr Obama until he reached his teenage years and she was six.

Irish Independent

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