Secret tour of White House, Oval Office for Obama’s Irish cousin and friend
President Obama’s cousin Henry Healy talks of amazing St Patrick’s Day experience
“It was around 12.45pm - we couldn’t believe what had just happened - but we just took it in our stride.
“We had a brief little chat and then we got into the back of his car. Ollie sat beside him and I sat opposite him. I never seen anything like the motorcade, there were 16 or 17 vehicles and people on the streets were stopping and waving and the president was waving back.
“The windows were extremely thick, I’ve never seen glass as thick. It was the safest possible vehicle I’ll ever be in. We were around 10 minutes in the car and he spoke about his visit to Moneygall. He told us how one of his employees, with the wind, had been blown out of the helicopter when it was leaving and broke her wrist.”
During the car journey, the three chatted about the state of the Irish economy, golfer Rory McIlroy and the president’s visit to Moneygall last year.
“He said his visit to the Kearney homestead in Moneygall was really special for him,” added Healy.
“He asked us what people thought on the ground. He asked if we thought the Irish economy was recovering. He also quizzed us on what ordinary people were talking about on the street.
“We told him about the household charge and he said he couldn’t believe that people in Ireland don’t pay for water already. He said all those things were paid for in the US with the rates collected locally to fund services.”
Golfer Rory McIlroy, who met President Obama at the White House last week, also came up in conversation.
“He said he was taken aback by the height of him and how he was a phenomenal athlete even though he was a very small guy,” said Healy.
He added that Obama also talked about how he had been ‘campaigning very hard’ ahead of the upcoming US presidential election. “I told him to make sure and check out his living ancestors in Ohio as they’d get behind him,” he laughed.
All three then had a pint of Guinness before returning to the White House.
“Ollie was the only one who finished the pint,” said Henry. “We were not rushed. His staff told us there was no panic.
“We went back to the White House then with the president and there was a hug at the diplomatic entrance. He went back up to his own office, he was working there, and Ollie and I finished off with a tour of the Eisenhower building. It was a day I will never forget.”
Ollie Hayes told the Independent that he was still ‘in shock’ over meeting the US president again.
“He asked me about energy costs in Ireland. He wanted to know what it was like on my own scale of business. He asked about our future dependency on oil. He generally wanted to know what sort of job Enda Kenny was doing,” said Hayes.
President Obama also revealed that one of his daughters was on a school trip to an orphanage.
“He said it was no harm to let the children see the other side since they are well off. He was very easy to talk to, you wouldn’t feel a bit uncomfortable,” added Hayes who will meet President Obama for a third time on Tuesday when they attend a function in the White House along with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
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