John F Kennedy Photo by: Google Images

John F. Kennedy beats Reagan, Che Guevara, as world’s top leader with Irish ancestry


John F Kennedy Photo by: Google Images

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Barack Obama has been voted one of history's three greatest political leaders with Irish ancestry, according to an international poll.

John F Kennedy, however, is voted the greatest such leader, ahead of Ronald Reagan second and Obama third, in an online poll of over 4,000 Americans and Britons conducted by YouGov for the genealogy site findmypast.com.

Che Guevara, the Latin American revolutionary who also had Irish roots, ranks fourth.
"The most surprising people turn out to have Irish ancestry," says Cliona Weldon, spokesperson for findmypast.ie.

The findmypast poll asked respondents in the US and UK to pick from a list of 10 political leaders who had won prominence in countries beyond Irish shores - in short, in the Irish Diaspora.

This Diaspora, consisting of Irish emigrants and their descendants, is estimated to include over 70 million people worldwide, including some 40 million Americans.

While Obama and JFK polled similar percentages with US and UK respondents, averaging 12 percent and 25 percent respectively, Reagan polled over four times as many votes in the US (35 percent) as in the UK (8 percent). Indeed, he would have topped the poll based on US votes alone, while the UK alone ranked him third behind Obama.

Obama, who only discovered his Irish roots in 2007, is just one of at least 13 US presidents to have had Irish ancestry. Indeed, the only one of the last six to have lacked them was Bill Clinton, who tried to atone for the fact by once informing a St Patrick's Day gathering that, "I feel more Irish every day!"

Other countries to have boasted notable leaders with Irish ancestry include Canada, Australia, France, Spain, Mexico, Chile, Peru and Israel.

Che Guevara, the Argentine-born radical who helped lead the revolution in Cuba, may be best known today as an icon of Latin American rebellion but he traced his ancestry to Galway, Ireland in the 1740s.

FK and Reagan both traced their roots to the great wave of Irish emigration that began in the mid-19th century, coinciding with the great Famine.

By then, Obama's Irish forebear, Falmouth Keaney, had already been in the U.S. for eight years, after migrating from Moneygall in Co. Offaly in 1850. Keaney was Obama's maternal great-great-great grandfather.


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