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America’s best known columnist Maureen Dowd of The New York Times has visited Moneygall and send her impressions back about the tiny Irish village where President Obama will visit on Monday.
It is a sure sign that the American media is zeroing in on Moneygall as the highlight of the Obama trip.
“This blocklong village (population 298) in County Offaly has erupted in a paroxysm of partying and marketing ... The newspaper, The Offaly Independent, has for now changed its name to The Obama Independent. A group of female hoofers have rechristened themselves the Obama Stepdancers, ”she wrote.
Dowd, who spent Thursday in the tiny town, is of Irish extraction with her father from Clare and mother’s people from Mayo.
Shw writes of Obamamania: “Amid the pebble dash cottages, the Obama Café is opening on Main Street and Barack Obama Plaza is rising on Lower Main Street. (The town is so small it’s up the Main Street and down the same street, as they say here.) They’re even building a special Barack Obama exit ramp from the highway.”
Everyone in town is getting in on the act she points out. “The bakery hawks Obama brown bread 'fit for a president.'" Along with the usual Irish tchotchkes, like plaques reading "Alcohol doesn’t cause hangovers, waking up does," shops have sprung up to sell Obama clocks, magnets, lighters and T-shirts reading “O’bama Is Feidir Linn” (Gaelic for “Yes We Can”) and “What’s the Craic Barack?” (craic means fun). Happy to share the credit for Obama’s heritage, they even put travel pamphlets for Kenya in the window of the T-shirt store.
Dowd says we should have known the Celtic Tiger was a paper tiger. “When they became brilliant financiers overnight, we should have known something was wrong. The Celtic Tiger turned out to be a paper tiger, and the Irish economy collapsed in a real-estate Ponzi scheme.” she writes.
She quotes local bar owner Ollie Hayes.
“When we were the Celtic Tiger, we lost touch with our neighbors and ourselves,” he said. “We’re paying the price for it. We hope this is the beginning of something brilliant.”
She also writes that the Queen Elizabeth visit captivated Ireland. “The Irish started out skeptically, not wanting to curtsy or kowtow or be treated as subjects. Queen Elizabeth started out tentatively, not knowing what to expect. When she showed no condescension, spoke a phrase in Gaelic, and told the Irish that both sides needed to be 'able to bow to the past but not be bound by it,' the ice melted.” she writes.