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News : Irish Last Updated: Mar 21, 2011 - 5:08 AM

President Obama to boost Irish spirits with May visit to Ireland
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Mar 18, 2011 - 2:43 AM

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President Barack Obama and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, March 17, 2011.

President Obama announced at a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Oval Office on St. Patrick's Day, that he will visit Ireland in May. The visit will be a welcome boost to Irish spirits after three years of a brutal recession.

In either May or June, Queen Elizabeth II will become the first British monarch to visit Dublin since her grandfather King George V's trip in 1911. This visit will also be important in cementing the good relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The president, whose mother was from Kansas and father was born in Kenya, likes to promote his Irish roots as a counter to 'birther' opponents who claim he is a Muslim and was not born in the United States, which would disqualify him from holding the office of president.

President Obama said on Thursday that his “great-great-great-grandfather” was from Ireland.

“It’s true,” he said during a luncheon Thursday at the Capitol. “Moneygall, to be precise.”

“I can’t believe I have to keep pointing this out,” he added in a joking reference to the lingering conspiracy theories.

Obama's ancestors left the village of Moneygall, County Offaly, for the United States, in the 1840s and 1850s.

Irish Origins says John Kearney (son of Michael Kearney, baptised 1741 in St Andrews, a Church of Ireland church in Dublin) was provost of Trinity College Dublin from 1798 to 1806 when he resigned to take up the position of Bishop of Ossory. His portrait is now hanging in Trinity College in Dublin. 

President Obama's Irish family tree

Ancestry.com says nearly 37m US residents claim Irish ancestry (or approximately 12% of the US population) according to the American Community Survey conducted by the US Census Bureau. This number is more than eight times the population of Ireland itself (4.5m).

Many key political figures in history have boasted Irish ancestry, including more than a quarter of United States Presidents, including John F. Kennedy, whose 2nd great-grandfather is listed in the website's records. Patrick Kennedy was living in Wexford, Ireland where he was renting a home. His relative John Kennedy was living nearby. President Barack Obama’s 4th great grandfather Fulmuth Donavan also appears, living in Ballygurleen, Bourney, Tipperary, in 1829 according to the Tithe Applotment records.

Miriam Lord's report in The Irish Times

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland

Oval Office

11:18 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hello, everybody. It is my great pleasure on St. Patrick’s Day to welcome the new Taoiseach, Prime Minister Kenny. We are thrilled to have him here. And we want to congratulate him on his historic victory.

We obviously have the strongest possible relationship with Ireland. The warmth, the affection, the familial and person-to-person contacts between our two countries extend far beyond any dry policy issues. There is just an incredible bond between our two countries. And that’s one that we want to reaffirm here today.

We have had an excellent conversation about how Ireland is going to be bouncing back from the severe economic challenges that it’s experienced over the last several years. The Taoiseach shared with me his plans and his efforts to make sure that people are put back to work in Ireland, that the financial system is stabilized. And he exudes great confidence, and I’m sure that we will be cooperating very closely with him and providing any assistance that we can on the economic front.

In addition, Ireland obviously plays an important role in the world. We want to thank him for the operations at Shannon that are so vital for us moving our troops into Afghanistan. It is a testimony to Ireland’s friendship to us. In addition, Ireland actually has trainers in Afghanistan that have provided us great assistance. And I expressed my appreciation for those sacrifices. We’ve worked together on issues like international food security, and we will continue to work on those issues as well.

We remarked on the fact that the situation in Northern Ireland has proven to be stable, and we are going to continue to pursue all the progress that’s been made there.

So, overall, the state of the relationship between our two countries is extraordinarily strong. This is a wonderful tradition each St. Patrick’s Day for me to be able to once again reaffirm the great warmth and affection that we have towards the people of Ireland.

And finally, I wanted to say today that I intend to come to Ireland in May, and I’m expecting to go not only to all the famous sites, but also to go to Moneygall, where my great-great-great-great-great grandfather hails from. Joe Biden is envious because he wants to go first -- (laughter) -- but my expectation is, is that I’ll just be laying the groundwork for what I’m sure will be an even more wonderful trip by him.

But I’m very much looking forward to that. And thank you so much for being here today. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER KENNY: Well, could I just say that it’s an honor and a privilege for me to be here, as the Taoiseach of Ireland, together with my wife, Fionnuala, representing the Irish people, being the Prime Minister, and to meet President Obama and later his wife Michelle as well.

My message to the American people is that the new government, which I lead, which has the strongest mandate in the history of the state, will continue to build on the very strong traditional links that we’ve had with the United States -- in business and in politics and in culture and the arts, and so on.

And Ireland is open for business and we continue to be open for business to the United States. We appreciate the investment of so much foreign direct investment from the U.S. to our country. But unlike previous centuries, we come bearing gifts as well. There are many Irish companies now operating in the U.S. with at least 80,000 American jobs created by the Irish firms here.

So from that point of view, Ireland will continue to be a very strong and loyal friend of the United States and we will work with the authorities and the political process to the benefit of both countries.

I’ve explained to the President what our program is for our new government, how that’s been accepted in terms of its fiscal element by the IMF, who have been in Dublin recently. We also reiterated that I will work with our European colleagues for the benefit of the European Union -- a union of 500 million people, which is so important in the interests of this connection with the United States and the bigger world outside.

I’m absolutely thrilled, I have to say, that President Obama has confirmed that he is to come to Ireland. He follows a long line of Presidents of the United States who visited Ireland. And I can assure you, Mr. President, that this visit will be rapturously received by the people of Ireland.

And from that perspective, I thank you and hope that you will enjoy the fulfilling experience during your visit of visiting Moneygall, where some of your ancestors contributed to the welfare and the well-being of that little village right in the center of Ireland. You will be made very welcome, President, and we appreciate for a person with so many difficulties on his plate as you have, in the global sense, that you’d take time to visit Ireland.

So from that point of view, I can testify as the Irish Taoiseach, this is another great day in our country’s journey and it’s a very significant statement of confidence by the most powerful political office in the world that the President of the United States decides to come to Ireland in May. We appreciate that very much, indeed, Mr. President. And we’ll make sure that your visit is warmly received and generously treated. And if you want to do a round of golf I’d be very happy to participate with you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I hear Taoiseach is pretty good, so I’ve got to be careful. I may have to practice before I play with him.

So, thank you so much.

PRIME MINISTER KENNY: Thank you very much, indeed, Mr. President.

White House St. Patrick's Day Reception, March 17, 2011

The water in the fountain on the North Lawn of the White House is dyed green in honour of St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2011.

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© Copyright 2011 by Finfacts.com

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