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Obama speaks in Dublin: "Never has a nation so small inspired so much in another"

At College Green, Dublin, this evening, the US president spoke warmly of the enduring “friendship and shared values” that continue to support a close relationship between the US and Ireland.

US President Barack Obama addresses the crowds at College Green in Dublin.
US President Barack Obama addresses the crowds at College Green in Dublin.
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire

IN HIS ONLY public address during this brief state visit to Ireland, US President Barack Obama has spoken of the important “friendship and shared values” that bind the two countries together.

Obama also commended the Irish people for choosing to “see past the scars of violence and mistrust to forge a lasting peace on this island”.

“America will stand by you always in your pursuit of peace,” he said, adding that the nation had already “so surpassed the world’s highest hopes” by making that unlikely dream real.

Opening his speech, Obama said “tá áthas orm bheith in Éireann” before expressing his condolences on the death of former Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald, “someone who believed in the power of education, someone who believed in the potential of youth, most of all someone who believed in the potential of peace and who lived to see that peace realised”.

He said he and Michelle felt very much at home, adding that he feels “even more at home after that pint that I had”. “In return,” he said, “let me offer the hearty greetings of tens of millions of Irish Americans who proudly trace their heritage to this small island. They say ‘hello’.”

Obama spoke of the “proud, enduring, centuries-old relationship and we are bound by history, friendship and shared values”. “And that’s why I’ve come here today as an American president – to reaffirm those bonds of affection.”

Emigration and enduring relations

Obama said his ancestor Falmouth Kearney left Ireland during the Great Hunger, as so many Irish did, to seek a new life in the new world. Migration is integral to US national identity, Obama said. “It’s who we are; a nation of immigrants.”

People like Falmouth often boarded ships with no money or family support and had only faith in the idea of America as a place where you could speak and worship as you please, and could make if it you try.

He said they passed that faith on to their children and it was still carried by their great-great-great grandchildren: “We call it the American dream.”

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“Never has a nation so small inspired so much in another,” Obama said of Ireland’s influence on the US. American public life has been influenced “by the humour and heart and dedication of servants with names like Kennedy and Reagan, O’Neill and Moynihan. So you could say there’s always been a little green behind the red, white and blue.”

He said it was America’s first Irish president who 50 years ago “made us dream again” with the idea of doing something as big, bold and ambitious as walking on the moon.

Calling on the Irish diaspora

Speaking before Obama’s address, Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke of the millions of Irish people who are Irish by family, marriage or design and urged them to follow their president home. When Falmouth Kearney set out across the Atlantic, he hardly imagined that his great-great-great-grandson would return as a president of the United States:

Now if there’s anyone out there who still doubts that Irland is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our ancestors is alive in our time, who still questions our capacity to restore ourselves, to reinvent ourselves and to prosper, well today is your answer. Because today, on this day, the president of the United States Barack Obama and his first lady Michelle Obama come to visit.

Every one of the Irish people who emigrated “and all their people” are our people, Kenny said. “Their past is our past, their story is our story,” he added.

My call is directly to those 40 million Irish-Americans, and whether you’re listening and watching in New York or New Haven, or in San Diego or St Louis, whether you’re Irish by blood, or by marriage, or by desire, we – your Irish family – are right here.

LISTEN: To Obama’s speech in full (via Peter Donegan) >

LIVE: (Not) Cardinal Brady’s liveblog from Obama’s concert >

Read: Irish musicians, actors and sports stars join festivities at Obama concert >

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