| 15.8°C Dublin

Dream big – First Lady tells city schoolchildren

IT'S quite a thrill just going to an event with the US First Lady and her daughters – but these schoolgirls got quite a surprise when they found that not only would Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama be present . . . but they'd be sitting right behind them.

Cue shock, smiles and maybe even a tear or two on an unforgettable day for many schoolchildren.

Before the special performance of Riverdance, Michelle Obama captured hearts at the Gaiety Theatre when she told the audience to "dream big".

With a big beaming smile, she said: "You guys are pretty awesome."

Instantly, a youngster in the audience piped up loudly: "We love you, too" and the theatre filled with applause.

It seemed the whole of Dublin was enchanted with 'Magic Michelle' yesterday.

Security was tight at Trinity College when her cavalcade of SUVs, motorcycles, US Secret Service vehicles and Garda cars ended its journey from Dublin Airport on the cobblestones of the college square.

Tourists, students, lecturers and members of the public coralled behind barriers did their best to catch a glimpse of Mrs Obama and daughters Malia (14) and Sasha (12).

The three VIPs were guided into the old library building to view some of the college's treasures, including the 1,200-year-old Book Of Kells.

Tour guide Anne-Marie Diffley said: "I was nervous but Michelle put me at my ease. She was just so very nice, very warm and very natural.


"She and the girls really knew their stuff, too. And she gave me a hug."

But the gift of new knowledge of the Obama family tree was a special moment during their visit.

The First Lady of the United States and her daughters listened to genealogist Fiona Fitzsimons as she told the girls that 11 generations of their ancestors in Ireland had now been identified, dating as far back as the 1600s in Limerick.

And the girls might even have felt a little bit of Trinity was in their genes – one of their relatives John Kearney was appointed Provost of Trinity in 1799.

And President Obama may even have inherited his renowned speechmaking abilities from Kearney, who was Professor of Oratory for 18 years before becoming Provost.

Ms Fitzsimons said: "Mrs Obama was lovely. I'd seen her so often on TV but she was so warm and friendly.

"We actually know more about the Irish roots of President Obama than we do about John F Kennedy.

"We can only go back to the 1840s for President Kennedy, but we can go back much further in Ireland for President Obama.

"The girls were lovely. After getting all the information they told me they felt it was a pity they didn't have the information in time for their end-of-year school project."

Provost Patrick Prendergast brought his daughters Emer (14) and Eilis (13) and, in no time, Malia and Eilis were chatting about their own recent trips to New York, he said.