Irish Republican News · May 23, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Obama wows Dubliners, seeks ‘missing apostrophe’

US president Barack Obama is addressing huge crowds of people at College Green in Dublin this evening.

He introduced himself as “Barack Obama, of the Moneygall O’Bamas. I am here to find the apostrophe that we lost along the way”.

The warm welcome accorded to President Obama has contrasted sharply with the difficult reception accorded to Elizabeth Windsor and the British royal entourage last week.

“An American does not require Irish blood because the two countries are bound by history, affection and bonds of friendship,” he said.

He said never has a nation so small inspired so much in another. “Irish blood is spilled on our battlefields...Irish sweat built our cities...there’s always been a little green behind the red, white and blue.”

Of the current economic crisis facing the country, Mr Obama said Ireland had faced trials before which it had endured and overcome. “We’re people, the Irish and the Americans, who never stop imagining a brighter future.”

He said he wished somebody had traced his Irish roots when he was a politician in Chicago, which he dubbed the Irish capital of the mid-west.

He revealed he craved a slot in the local St Patrick’s Day parade, only to be given the final place ahead of the street cleaners.

“I bet those parade organisers are watching TV today and feeling kind of bad because this is a parade right here,” he said.

Mr Obama finished his speech with an Irish translation of his famous campaign slogan ‘Yes we can’.

“Is feidir linn,” he said, was the correct response when faced with doubters who believed dreams could not be achieved, or current difficulties overcome.

Earlier, another Irish phrase drew huge cheers. “Ta áthas orm le bheith in Eireann (I’m happy to be in Ireland),” he said.

The president visited his ancestral homeland in Monegall, County Offaly earlier and entertained distant relatives as they enjoyed a drink in a local bar in Moneygall.

He and his wife Michelle they were greeted by Mr Obama’s lookalike cousin Henry Healy and spent about 20 minutes meeting people in the village before visiting the site of his ancestral home.

They then spoke to locals over pints of Guinness in Ollie Hayes’ Bar. Mr Obama said “slainte” before taking a healthy gulp of his drink and insisted that he “always pays his bar tab”.

The Obamas spent a few more minutes greeting the crowd gathered in Moneygall before leaving the village shortly before 4.30pm.

Mr Obama and his wife Michelle have been in Dublin since this morning for a one-day visit at the start of a week-long European tour.

Following a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Farmleigh Mr Obama said the bond between the United States and Ireland is not just one of trade and commerce, but carries a “blood lineage”.

The two leaders discussed a range of issues, including the EU-IMF bailout, the banking situation and unemployment.

Speaking after the 40-minute meeting, Mr Obama said he was “extraordinarily grateful” for the welcome he and his wife had received from the Taoiseach and the Irish people. He said the friendship and bond between the United States and Ireland “could not be stronger”.

“Obviously it is not just a matter of strategic interests. It’s not just a matter of foreign policy, for the United States and Ireland carries a blood lineage,” he said. “For millions of Irish-Americans this continues to symbolise the homeland and the extraordinary traditions of an extraordinary people.”

Noting that he and Mr Kenny had already had an opportunity to meet in Washington, he said he was glad to see progress on a number of issues, which the Taoiseach was “more than up to the task of achieving”.

Mr Obama said the US wanted to help strengthen the bonds of trade and commerce between the two countries, and to do everything it could to help Ireland on the path to recovery. “Ireland is a small country but punches above its weight on a range of issues,” he said.

He noted Ireland’s strong voice in areas such as human rights, and also its work within the EU.

On events in the North, Mr Obama said the peace process spoke “to the possibilities of peace and people in longstanding struggles being able to reimagine their relationships”. He paid tribute to all those who had “worked tirelessly” to bring about peace. The president said he was proud of the part that the US had played in getting nationalist politicians and the British government into talks.

Mr Obama is the sixth US president to make an official visit to Ireland during his period of office, beginning with John F Kennedy in June 1963. Richard Nixon visited in 1970, Ronald Reagan came in 1984, Bill Clinton was here three times between 1995 and 2000 and George W Bush visited in 2006.

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