Born on the fourth of July! That’s the official day the President Barack Obama Visitor Centre was opened in Moneygall, but gestation started the day Obama visited his distant family home in a village of 320 people in 2011.
The center in Co. Offaly is in the Barack Obama Plaza, a service station and food court. It opened earlier this year just off junction 23 on the M7 motorway linking Dublin and Limerick.
The €7 million ($9.5m) development, owned by Pat and Una McDonagh, is considered to be one of the biggest investments in the midlands in recent years.
It’s hoped the visitor center will attract tourists who wish to learn more about Obama’s connections to Moneygall as well as the links of 22 former U.S. presidents to Ireland.
Henry Healy, 29, distant cousin of Obama, said the visit of the most powerful man in the world to his ancestral home had huge benefits for the community.
Healy, who has celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in the White House, is hopeful America’s most famous family will visit Moneygall’s latest tourist attraction.
Healy, the manager of Barack Obama Plaza said, “This is another milestone for Moneygall. We have a facility which will enhance the community and become one of the largest employers in the area.”
Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny paid a brief visit to the center on opening day. “We are always supportive of keeping our connections with the United States alive,” he said.
Kenny spoke about President Obama’s great-great-great grandfather Falmouth Kearney, who left Moneygall as a 19-year-old to emigrate to the U.S.
The Barack Obama Plaza, including the visitor center and meetings suite and the attached filling station and food store, will employ 85 people.
The development by Pat and Una McDonagh, owners of Ireland’s Supermac’s chain of restaurants, is intended to provide an educational experience focused on Irish-American history and culture while also celebrating Obama’s visit to Moneygall in 2011.
Pat McDonagh, a former teacher, said that it had been “a privilege” to work with the people of Moneygall to mark the visit of the area’s “most famous son” to the village of his forefathers.
“We are thrilled with how the Barack Obama Plaza has turned out. We have had excellent local construction workers and suppliers helping to get the development prepared for business. We have a dedicated team in place ready to greet and look after each customer as they arrive,” he added.