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Henry Healy: Finding out I was Barack Obama's 8th cousin transformed my life

The US President’s closest Irish relation was speaking ahead of the official opening of a Barack Obama visitor centre in Moneygall today.

Source: Carolyn Kaster

MONEYGALL NATIVE HENRY Healy has said his life has changed dramatically since he found out that he is a distant relative of the President of the United States.

Healy was speaking ahead of the official opening of the President Barack Obama Visitor Centre in Moneygall. The centre is located in the Barack Obama Plaza which is owned by Supermac’s’ Pat McDonagh.

The US President’s eighth cousin told TheJournal.ie that he has been “fortunate to be involved with the visitor centre, having input with some of the design”.

He said the connection to Obama has already had a positive impact on the village which has continued to add various facilities for tourists over the last number of years.

His own life has been significantly changed since the connection emerged and he described the last three years as a “rollercoaster of highs and lows, quiet and busy periods”.

Barack Obama Plaza_2a Pat and Una McDonagh, Directors of the Barack Obama Plaza and Henry Healy, at the Barack Obama Plaza. Source: Brian Gavin

It has transformed my life, I’m extremely fortunate and I got to be involved in ancestoral tourism for the last two years. With this venture I get to reside permanently in Moneygall – I could be one of the many people who’s gone to Canada or Australia seeking a new life. None of this would have happened but for that connection.

Healy said he never takes what he’s been given for granted.

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself to see did this really happen. Did I actually go to the oval office to speak to the President and have a pint with him?”

For Obama’s closest Irish relative, there are two stand-out moments in his rollercoaster ride since finding out he was related to the President.

“Being there to welcome the President in Moneygall and the reaction of the crowd – that big cheer when the President hugged me –  still resonates with me,” he said. “The other one was going for a pint with the President and getting to travel with him in his car and just have a regular conversation as we travelled to downtown DC. It didn’t feel like I was talking to the most powerful man in the world.”

Healy said he has been assured by the First Lady that she plans to return to Moneygall with her two daughters after Obama’s term in office is over, so the new visitor centre may soon become part of the history it is displaying.

Related: Moneygall to get a ‘Barack Obama Plaza’, creating 60 new jobs>

Read: Mayor of Kilkenny writes to Obama and hopes he’ll visit next year>

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