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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.
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
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.
Remarks by President Obama and Prime
Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland
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
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.
White House St. Patrick's Day Reception, March 17,
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.