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U.S. President Barack Obama Photo by: PA

Ambassador Rooney: Obama will 'definitely' visit Ireland

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U.S. President Barack Obama Photo by: PA

President Obama's Irish roots: Click Here

U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney has revealed that President Barack Obama “definitely” plans on traveling to Ireland in the near future.

Back in May, the U.S. President, who has both Kenyan and Irish roots, was overheard in a Washington D.C. restaurant telling an Irish woman "I've got to visit Ireland,” after overhearing her accent when chatting with customers.

Now the newly appointed Ambassador Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, co-founder of the American Ireland Fund and a prominent figure in the Irish-American community, has confirmed the long standing rumor that Obama would return to the “motherland.” In a press conference in Dublin yesterday, after presenting his credentials to Irish President Mary McAleese, Rooney said he’s discussed the idea of Obama visiting Ireland with the president.

“Well I know that he wants to come,” Rooney said. “When things settle down, he definitely would plan it.”

Obama would most likely make a stop in Ireland on the way to or from one of his trips to Europe or Asia.

Rooney said he and the president discussed including a visit to Ireland during “one of his trips to, you know, Europe or maybe the Far East or somewhere, if he could come back this way it would be good.”

The news of the Obama Irish visit is welcomed in Ireland, where efforts have been made to invite him over on several occasions. Obama has Irish roots - his great-great-great grandfather, Fulmuth Kearney, hails from Moneygall in County Offaly and emigrated to America, eventually settling in Ohio right after the Irish famine of the 1840s.

The U.S. Ambassador to Ireland wasn’t specific on the dates of Obama's pending Irish visit. “His schedule right now is so full it’s difficult to see when it would be,” said Rooney.

During the press conference, Rooney was also asked about the possibility of a bilateral agreement on immigration between Ireland the U.S., similar to the deal Australia has with the States in which Australian college graduates can obtain two-year renewable visas.

“I think right now with the situation that exists with immigration generally for America, it’s hard to pinpoint that you’re going to do something for just one country,” he said.

“Congress is going to debate this and they have to look at it in its entirety, you can’t just make one rule for Ireland as you can imagine. But there is interest there, there is interest, we do understand the issues.

“I just arrived so I have not talked to the Government about this at all, and will do so, and talk to our own people. I have had some conversations with the people at the State Department and things like that, and in the Congress.”

Rooney, who was accompanied by his wife, Patricia, and his grandchildren Meghan and Dan, expressed his gratitude and excitement to be in his new position as Ambassador to Ireland.

He told the crowd: “I’m very pleased to be here, I’m honored that President Obama would select me to be the ambassador and I have great feel and regard for Ireland, have had for a long time, so it’s terrific to be here."

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