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US, Ireland have ‘blood link’: Obama
Published on 24 May. 2011 1:09 AM IST
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President Barack Obama said on Monday that the US and Ireland share a “blood link” that extends beyond strategic interests or foreign policy into the hearts of the millions of Irish Americans who still see a homeland here. And though Obama didn’t mention it in brief comments alongside the Irish Prime Minister shortly after arriving in Dublin, that blood link extends to the President himself. Obama was to set out later in the day for Moneygall, the tiny village in County Offaly that is the improbable ancestral homeland of Obama’s great-great-great grandfather on his Kansas-born mother’s side.
“This continues to symbolize the homeland and the extraordinary traditions of an extraordinary people,” Obama said after meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on the first stop of a six-day, four-country Europe tour.
“The friendship and the bonds between the United States and Ireland could not be stronger,” Obama said. “Obviously, it is not just a matter of strategic interest. It’s not just a matter of foreign policy. For the United States, Ireland carries a blood link with it.”
The President, who has struggled very publicly in recent days with his own role trying to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, also said during his visit with Kenny “how inspired we have been by the progress that’s been made in Northern Ireland. It speaks to the possibilities of peace, and people in longstanding struggles being able to reimagine their relationships.”
Obama spoke of the queen’s recent visit of reconciliation and said it “sends a signal not just in England, not just here in Ireland, but around the world. It sends what Bobby Kennedy once called a ‘ripple of hope’ that may manifest itself in a whole range of ways.”
Kenny said the Irish people had been awaiting the President’s visit and his pilgrimage to Moneygall. “Their excitement is palpable,” he said.
As the story goes, Falmouth Kearney, a shoemaker, left Moneygall for the United States in 1850 at the height of Ireland’s Great Famine. Obama’s roots in the town were discovered during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Residents in the village of about 350 some 80 miles southwest of Dublin have been eagerly anticipating Obama’s arrival, applying fresh coats of paint to their homes, patching up the sidewalks and hurriedly building a coffee shop called — what else? — Obama Cafe.
White House aides say the President shares their excitement and may even raise a pint at a local pub and connect with a few distant relatives. First, though, after traveling overnight from Washington aboard Air Force One, the President and first lady Michelle Obama met Ireland’s President Mary McAleese at her official residence, and Obama participated in a tree planting ceremony.

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