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Obama set to visit Ireland in May

The US President will visit Ireland in May – including a trip to Moneygall in Co Offaly, home of his maternal ancestors.

Image: AP

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA is to visit Ireland in May, it has been announced, following the President’s Oval Office meeting yesterday with Taoiseach Enda Kenny to mark St Patrick’s Day.

Speaking to reporters after a half-hour joint meeting between with Kenny, Obama said he would include a visit to Ireland in a series of European engagements in May.

Obama was already scheduled to visit the UK between May 22 and 24, ahead of a G8 summit in France. The visit will either come before Obama visits the UK, or may take place after the G8 activity – though the former is considered more likely.

“I wanted to say today that I intend to come to Ireland in May,” Obama said, adding that he was aware of his Irish heritage and wanted to get in touch with those roots.

“There has been some controversy about my own background, so today I want to put all those rumours to rest: It is true my great-great-great grandfather really was from Ireland,” the president joked. “Moneygall, to be precise. I can’t believe I have to keep pointing this out.”

Genealogists have traced the bloodline of Obama’s mother back to Moneygall in Co Offaly, where his great-great-great-grandfather Fulmouth Kearney left in 1850 – travelling to New York before ultimately settling in Ohio where he had inherited land. It is thought that some of Obama’s time in Ireland, as a result, will likely be spent in the midlands county.

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Obama may also visit Kilkenny – where one of Kearney’s own ancestors, Bishop John Kearney, is buried in St Canice’s Cathedral. Bishop Kearney is a former provost of Trinity College Dublin – a curious echo to Obama himself, who was a constitutional law professor before turning to politics full-time.

Obama – who has played more golf during his tenure in the Oval Office than any other commander-in-chief – joked he had heard Kenny was also an avid golfer, and challenged him to a round of golf if their schedules permitted. The former plays off a handicap of 16, while Kenny plays off 13.

The pair later attended a gala dinner in honour of Ireland’s national holiday in the East Room of the White House, at which the pair heard performances by Oscar-winning musician Glen Hansard.

Read: Enda Kenny’s White House speech in full >

Poll: Does Obama’s visit make you more confident about Ireland? >

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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